This is Parrish’s sixth Topps card and the picture shows off his muscular physique. Parrish came up through the Detroit Tigers system alongside of Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, and Jack Morris who all had rookie cards in the ’78 set.
Parrish made the Tigers team for good in ’78 and shared catching duties with veteran Milt May. At this point his defense was ahead of his offensive production. He threw out 44% of base stealers but hit only .219/.254/.424 in 304 plate appearances. Parrish was lifting weights before it became common place in baseball. Tigers field general Sparky Anderson strongly discouraged it, believing he’d become too stiff to hit properly. Parrish hid his weight bench at Tiger Stadium and continued to work out. His physique caught the attention of female Tiger fans and as 1979 began, his offense would show he was more than just eye candy. He won the starting job and posted a .276/.343/.456 slash line with 19 HR.
By 1980 Parrish was joining the conversation as one of the better catchers in the game by hitting 24 HR and 34 doubles. He earned his first All-Star berth and won a Silver Slugger for his offensive output. Parrish slipped a bit in the strike shortened ’81 season as he hit 10 HR with a .244 average.
Parrish would go on to have his most productive stretch of his career from 1982-85. Over the four seasons he averaged 30 HR, 99 RBI and 3.8 WAR. An AL All-Star all four years, he won three Gold Gloves as he was recognized for his cannon arm as well as his big bat which earned him three more Silver Sluggers. He set the mark for home runs by an AL catcher with 32 in '82. He hit 33 HR in '84, a season that ended with the Tigers as World Champs. Teammates Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson got the postseason accolades but Parrish chipped in with a double and homer in both the ALCS and World Series
In 1985 Parrish hit 22 HR despite being limited to 91 games due to injuries. He left Detroit for Philadelphia after the season via free-agency. While losing a local hero, the Tigers were wise to let Parrish go after his age 30 season as his best days were behind him. Of course, Parrish leaving Detroit was likely a result of collusion against free-agents as much as any other factor. (Parrish was later awarded over a million dollars in damages). He hit under .250 and just 32 HR in his two years in Philly and his signing was considered a major bust. Parrish was shipped off to the Angels after the ’88 season.
Parrish had a so-so year in ’89 but rebounded with 24 HR and an OPS+ of 123 in 1990 which earned him one last All-Star berth and his 6th Silver Slugger award. After a 19 HR season in ‘91 his low average cost him his starting job and eventually his spot on the roster and he was released in June of ’92.
Seattle signed Parrish and he finished the year backing up an overworked Dave Valle. Parish played just ten games for the Indians in '93 and spent the next two years as a backup in Pittsburgh and Toronto. He went back to the Pirates in ’96 but didn’t make the team and retired after 19 seasons in the big leagues.
Flipside: C'mon Topps you gave Parrish a record breaker card to discuss the All-Star game already!
Oddball: Parrish did come back to the Tigers in '94 but they sent him to AAA Toledo and sold him to Pittsburgh at the end of April.
History: Parrish had a good career (36.0 WAR) with most of his value occurring while he was in Detroit (28.1 WAR). His throwing arm was a defensive weapon and his power was among the best in the early and mid 80's. His weakness was his sluggish baserunning and he didn't walk as much as a power hitter should. His single season HR record for AL catchers was broken by Carlton Fisk in 1985, topped by Terry Steinbach in '96 and later by Ivan Rodriguez with 35 in '99. As far as catchers are concerned only Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, and Gary Carter hit more home runs in a career than Parrish who hit 324.