Sunday, October 2, 2011

#252 - Dave Parker

This is the first rookie card in a long while. Dave Parker looks quite thin here at Candlestick; he was only 22 and just kicking off a nice long career (he's the third guy in a row that would play into his forties). Dave would take over right field in Pittsburgh, sort of venerated ground since that was Roberto Clemente's trolling area. It would end up being a pretty smooth transition despite some initial bumps because Dave had the stats to justify his succession.

Dave Parker grew up in a tough neighborhood in Cincinnati, a couple blocks from Crosley Field (when he was a kid, Frank Robinson gave him a mitt outside the stadium). He was drafted in a late round in '70 by the Pirates. The Reds passed on him because he'd had knee problems and was rumored to be an attitude problem. By Dave's first season in the minors in Rookie ball that year the Reds were probably already regretting their decision. After an excellent '71 in A ball and a not so great one in Double A, Dave kicked everyone's butt in '72 back in Single A. He began '73 in Triple A and that July moved on to The Show after Manny Sanguillen and Gene Clines didn't work out in Clemente's spot. In '74 he again split time in right - mostly with Willie Stargell - and took over full time in '75 when he came in third in NL MVP voting with a .308 average, 25 homers, and 101 RBIs. In '76 Dave's homer totals got cut in half but he hit .313. In '77 he won his first NL batting title and led the league in hits and doubles. He also won the first of three successive Gold Gloves. Dave had a gun for an arm, was a huge hustler - he participated in infield rundowns - and could steal bases. In '77 he had 26 assists, a huge number for an outfielder. He also got into a nasty collision at home plate with Mets catcher John Stearns in which he fractured a cheekbone and had to wear a hockey goalie mask or a football helmet when playing. In '78 he hit .334 to win his second batting title, 30 homers, and 117 RBIs to win the MVP and in '79 hit .310 as the Pirates won the Series. He also signed a contract that season making him the first player to earn over a million a season. After a 1980 in which he hit .295 with 17 homers and 79 RBIs for a disappointing team Dave was only 29 with a .314 career average, 139 homers, and over 700 RBIs in under seven full seasons and seemed a lock for the Hall of Fame.

In '81 Parker's numbers took a pretty substantial hit. While some of it was injury-based he got a lot of flack for his fat contract and non-traditional ways. He'd been photographed a couple years earlier smoking in the dugout and was the first player to wear an earring while on the field. He'd also by then become an active user of cocaine which came out later at the Pittsburgh drug trials. Whatever the reason his numbers the final three years of his contract settled in the .270 area with single-digit homers. When the contract was up after the '83 season he signed with his hometown Reds as a free agent.

In '84 with the Reds Parker turned things around by hitting .285 with 16 homers and 94 RBIs. '85 was even better as Dave won a Silver Slugger with a .312 average and 34 homers while leading the NL with 42 doubles and 125 RBIs. He finished second that season to Willie McGee in MVP votes. The next two seasons the average settled in the .263 area but he also averaged 28 homers and 107 RBIs. Following the '87 season he was traded to the A's for Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas. For Oakland the next two seasons Dave would mostly DH and while his '88 season was beset by injuries, in '89 he would tap 22 homers and 97 RBIs. In '90 he went to the Brewers as a free agent and won another Silver Slugger with 21 homers and 92 RBIs. He then went to the Angels for '91 for Dante Bichette before finishing things up later that season with Toronto where he went to help in their stretch drive and hit .333. Dave finished with a .290 average, 339 homers, 526 doubles, and 1,493 RBIs. He won three Silver Sluggers, the three Gold Gloves, and was an All-Star seven times. In the post-season he hit .234 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 30 games. He is on the cusp pretty much across the board on HOF statistics but has never received more than 25% of the vote and this was his last eligible season so if he gets in it will be in a few years from the veteran's committee. Since playing Dave has done some coaching but spends most of his time running a successful string of Popeye's restaurants in the Cincinnati area. Like Gaylord Perry he always has a fat smile on for his more current photos so he seems like he's doing well.

A year in and Dave already has a bunch of impressive star bullets, focusing on his mvp '72 season. He was also a running back in high school.

Dave would have made an interesting Yankee so let's use that theme:

1. Parker and Bill Robinson '76 to '82 Pirates;
2. Robinson and Roy White '67 to '69 Yankees;
3. White and Graig Nettles '73 to '79 Yankees.

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