Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Card #41: Dave Parker In Action

Who Can It Be Now?
It's still Dave Parker.  Perhaps it is a good question to pose to Topps as to why Dave Parker deserved "In Action" treatment -- or, for that matter, the question might be if there were any standards for the In Action subset.  It may have been just that Parker was one of the better hitters historically in the league, and that Topps had an "In Action" photo that it wanted to use.

Since I covered Parker's career in some detail yesterday, I won't rehash that information here.  One thing I want to cover, though, is that 1990 Pittsburgh story about how the City of Pittsburgh had turned on Parker in the early 1980s.

It wasn't a drug-driven act.  There was a lot of hatred for Parker around.  There was an article from Hal Bock of the AP, a well-respected journalist at the time, in July of 1980.  In the article, Bock notes that Pittsburgh really did not appreciate Parker and his big contract:
Here you are [Pittsburgh], blessed with one of the very best baseball players of our time in Dave Parker. But instead of sitting back and enjoying his home run swing, you boo him. Instead of marveling at his ability in the field, you throw things at him.  And instead of celebrating his considerable skills in this demanding, difficult game, you are driving him out of town.
Nice going, indeed. 
Pittsburgh likes to call itself the City of Champions.  But [the city] never really grew up from the mills and the blue collar, beer chaser image.  You live in a union town but you resent Dave Parker because he makes an outrageous salary, a salary which his own union and his own abilities have helped him achieve.
The article came in the wake of an incident on Willie Stargell Day when some yahoo threw a nine-volt radio battery at Parker and barely missed beaning him.  The article detailed further that it wasn't just Parker getting fat and playing badly -- this activity had started years earlier with Parker having his car vandalized and, later, having a bag of nuts and bolts thrown at him.

I guess I don't understand the anger, even in retrospect.

Certainly, by 1981, Parker had found cocaine and his results had suffered accordingly.  He got fat and out-of-shape after his knee injuries in 1980.  That seemingly led to an article from the Beaver County Times from August 18, 1981, by a sports staff writer there. The story's headline is "Dave Parker: A self-destructing fat cat."  It goes downhill from there.  The writer says that what Parker, 
really needs is a couple of months away from baseball.  He needs to spend one month at a fat farm and one month in a shrink's office getting his head together. 
That's the sad part of this story.  We're watching a great athlete destroy himself. Once the world's best baseball player and a nice guy to boot, Parker has let himself become an embarrassment to his team and the city of Pittsburgh.
His biggest problem is his weight.  His belly is as big as his head which, in the last few years, has become massive.  He's not the player he once was because of it.
Ouch. If the story stopped there, it would be bad enough and probably would have turned some of the people reading about Parker against him already (if that had not been done previously).  Then the writer points out that, frankly, Parker did not even bring anything positive to bear off the field either.
Parker's right.  It is personal.  The fans treat him badly because he asks for it. His personality practically screams, "Hate me.  I'm the biggest jerk in town."
What positive things does he do? He's always rubbed people the wrong way by boasting endlessly about how great he is.  He's always refused requests from the team to do promotions and public appearances.  And he's always played games with the media.
Even if true, the article borders on character assassination.  I can see why, in retrospect, that Parker was glad to get out of Pittsburgh. 

After he left Pittsburgh, though, Parker certainly egged on the fans there.  In a May 31, 1987 game, Parker was playing for the Cincinnati Reds against Pittsburgh in the old Three Rivers Stadium.  He connected on with a Doug Drabek pitch for tie-breaking home run. Parker knew it was a home run, and so did everyone else.  The fans started booing and, as the story says, "the louder the boos, the slower he ran."  

Parker took 26.96 seconds, according to one stopwatch, to take his leisurely stroll around the basepaths.

It appears that the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays had him covered on protecting baseball's "Unwritten Rules."  Oddly enough, though, both the Blue Jays own guys and noted baseball "protector" Peter Gammons seem to come down on the side of "hot dogging."  Blue Jays coach Mike Squires is quoted as saying that, "Back in the fifties and sixties, if you did that celebrating stuff to a Bob Gibson or a Don Drysdale, you risked having your head torn off.  But that was then, this is now, and more of our players were upset with Kelly [Gruber] for what he said than with Parker or [Rickey] Henderson."

Huh.  So baseball was more forgiving in 1989?  I wonder what Gerritt Cole would say about that.

Totally Gnarly
According to the PSA website, Dave Parker used a very heavy Louisville Slugger or Adirondack bat during his career.  They highlight the fact as well that, unlike many players both in the 1970s and 1980s and now, Parker used very little pine tar on his bat.  His number 39 would appear often -- but not always -- on the bat's knob.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Yesterday I talked about whether Parker should be in the Hall of Fame.  If you missed it, my general response is that his career numbers fall short of the types of numbers necessary for induction into the Hall.  I closed my thoughts by saying, "So, I just can't see it happening. Then again, I couldn't see Jim Rice getting in either."

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote that yesterday, Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski thought the same thing. He compared Rice and Parker.  In that comparison, we start with the fact that both won their respective 1978 MVP award.  Rice was top 5 in MVP voting 6 times versus Parker's 5.  Both started 4 All-Star games.  Rice was a notoriously indifferent fielder and never won a Gold Glove, while Parker won three.

The comparison goes from there.  It's not saying whether Parker or Rice was more deserving, just that it was difficult to understand why Jim Rice made it to the Hall of Fame and Parker never got over 25% of the vote, generally.

Parker was considered again for induction into the Hall of Fame this past year by the "Expansion Era" ballot.  He was up along with Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dan Quisenberry, and Ted Simmons.  None of those guys were inducted into the Hall of Fame this past year.  I was actually intrigued by who was on that panel: Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, and Frank Robinson represented the on-field side of the discussion.   

I cringe at the thought of the idea of Joe Morgan making decisions on judging who should be inducted.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure Parker's off the field issues played a role with voters. I think he falls short as well, but man....Jim Rice got in.