Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#205 Dave Parker - Pittsburgh Pirates

Dave Parker appears happy here on his 10th Topps card.  He was in fact coming out of a very difficult time in his career.  Parker's weight gain is pretty obvious if you compare him to his previous cards.

Player:  Dave Parker was a 14th round pick of the Pirates in 1970.  He moved through their system steadily and debuted in 1973 batting .288/.308/.453 in 139 at bats.  In a crowded outfield that included Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk, and Gene Clines, Parker played mainly against lefties in '74 and put up similar numbers to his rookie campaign. 

With Stargell moving to first base and Gene Clines out of the way, Parker took over in right field for the next nine years.  He established himself as a star in '75 batting .308 with 25 HR and 101 RBI while leading the league in slugging at .541.  It was also the first of five straight years with an OPS+ over 130.  Parker's power slipped a bit in '76 but he still hit .313/.349/.475.

Parker was dominant the next two years as he won consecutive batting titles with .338 and .334 averages. He paced the league in slugging in '78 with a .585 mark and was named NL MVP. 

Blessed with a cannon for an arm Parker racked up outfield assists and led the NL with 26 in 1977.  His arm was on full display with two great throws in the '79 All-Star game, including this one.

Parker was strong in '79 (.310 BA, 6.4 WAR) helping the Pirates to World Series title with 14 hits in 41 postseason at bats. This helped make up for his poor showing in the '74 and '75 NLCS when he managed just one hit over the two series.

Parker's performance slipped in '80 as he hit .295 with 17 HR.  His cocaine addiction was affecting his performance as he gained weight, missed time with injuries, and struggled to hit with the same authority.  He played in just 140 games over the '81-'82 seasons with just 15 HR.  Healthier in '83 Parker still wasn't back to his prior level and batted .279/.311/.411 in 144 games.

"Cobra" signed with the Reds, his hometown team, after the '83 season and rejuvenated his career.  Over the next four years he averaged 27 HR, 108 RBI, with a 116 OPS+.  Now in his late 30s, he spent the '88 and '89 seasons DH-ing for the pennant winning Oakland A's.  Although he posted rather pedestrian numbers for a DH (34 HR, .261 BA in two seasons) he won his 2nd World Series ring in '89. 

He bounced around with Milwaukee, California, and Toronto his last two years and retired after the '91 season. 

Flipside:  You can see that his performance really started to slide in 1980.  He caught a lot of flack after failing to live up to his 5 year / $5 million contract that he signed in '79. His performance and the fact that Parker wore an ear ring (one of the first athletes to do so) and smoked cigarettes in the dugout rubbed people the wrong way.  Had he been able to sustain his prior production, Pirate fans wouldn't have thrown batteries at him.

Oddball:  During the '78 season Parker broke his cheek and jaw bones in a home plate collision with Mets catcher John Stearns. He played through it though wearing and assortment of masks including a hockey mask and modifying his batting helmet with a football facemask. 

History:  Parker had some awesome seasons in the 70's and was one of the most physically intimating players of his era.  He won two World Series rings and had 2,713 hits in a 19 year career.  His final batting line of .290/.339/.471 is very impressive as is his 121 OPS+ .

Parker's drug use hampered what could have been a Hall of Fame career and the scandal culminated with the Pirates suing him in '86.
Even with his mid-career crisis hurting his image and career numbers he still managed to get as much as 24.5% of the HOF vote in '98.


  1. I like that card. And he still looks slim in the photo - it was probably taken a few years prior.

  2. Pirate fans threw batteries at Parker the year before and the year of their World Championship in 1979. Only an idiot would justify it anyway by inaccurately saying they did it because his production dropped.