On the podcast, which if you are reading this I am guessing you subscribe to the podcast, I often refer to “The Rule of Seven.” This refers to my theory that people don’t really start following a sports team in any significant way until they turn 7 years old.
Some do it sooner, other later but 7 is a pretty good average for it.
I turned 7 in 1979 and the first World Series I remembered watching was that year’s memorable and Disco themed “We Are Family” match up between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Willie Stargell was the emotional leader of the team (and backed up the emotion with a strong bat.) But Dave Parker was the great all around hitter on the squad.
Parker was in many ways the heir to Roberto Clemente. His career did not start exactly after the great Clemente perished over the Gulf of Mexico after the 1972 season. But by 1974, Parker was in right field and the Pirates were a playoff team.
The MVP of 1978, Parker was a batting champ who hit for power and had a cannon for an arm in right field. And after 1979, he was a World Series champ who had a cooler than cool aura about him.
If Pops Stargell was the fatherly steady figure in the clubhouse, Parker was the bad ass trouble maker.
By the early 1980’s he looked like a potential Hall of Famer. When the Cincinnati native became a major figure in the Pittsburgh cocaine trials, his reputation took a dip. (Cocaine seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?)
He continued putting up All Star numbers after being dealt to the Reds. He picked up another World Series ring as a member of the 1989 Oakland A’s, often batting in between Canseco and McGwire (two players who substance abuse was not looked at as Parker’s cocaine reputation hung over him.)
After another All Star appearance with the 1990 Milwaukee Brewers, he finished his career bouncing between the Angels and the Blue Jays in 1991.
Parker’s 19 year career featured five Top 5 MVP finishes, including the 1978 title, multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and was named to the All Star Game in 3 different decades.
Had he picked up 288 more hits over those 19 years, he would have cleared 3,000 and would be a Hall of Famer. Instead he lingered on the ballot for 15 seasons, peaking at 24.5%. Clearly the 10-15% who voted for him over a decade and a half had a similarly positive impression as I had as a kid.
A curious thing about this Topps card. On the back, they featured a cartoon as many of them did.
Take a look at it and see if you can detect the problem.
Topps Cards had their players be racial neutral. But that means the default is to portray everyone as a dorky white guy, which Dave Parker certainly was not.
So he did not make it to the Hall of Fame and perhaps the Sabermetrics crowd would not embrace him the way I did.
But let’s see anyone else in the Hall of Fame pull off this shirt that Parker wore.