Wednesday, April 2, 2014

1976 TOPPS DAVE PARKER

BASEBALL'S SUPER FLY.


THE MAN COULD DO IT ALL.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • Dave Parker was a five-tool behemoth and simply the NL's best player of the late 1970s. When he wasn't throwing out runners from right field and pontificating about his general greatness, the seven-time All-Star was creasing the ball to all fields out of his Cobra-like stance. After winning the NL MVP in '78 and becoming the first million-dollar-a-year player the following year, his career began unraveling in the '80s due to injuries and substance abuse. Still, with 339 career homers and a .290/.339/.471 slash line during a 19-year career, Parker will be remembered as the super fly superstar. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • The '76 backs weren't the most eye-friendly in Topps' history, but you can plainly see Parker was previewing what was to come.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Don't you just love that follow through? The heel dug into the clay counter-balanced by the bat exudes power and quickness that words cannot express.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Parker grew up in Cincinnati and attended Western Hills High, Pete Rose's alma mater.
  • There's a story out of Charleston, W.Va., the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate, of a Parker homer landing on a passing coal train in '73; the ball was retrieved when the train arrived in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Won back-to-back NL batting titles in '77 (.338) and and '78 (.334).
  • His MVP season, in which he hit 30 homers and drove in 117 runs, was put together despite a fractured jaw and cheekbone suffered during a home-plate collision on June 30. He still managed to play 148 games.
  • From '76-'80, he averaged 17 steals, including 20 back-to-back in '78 and '79.
  • Averaged eight assists from '75-'79, including 26 in '77.
  • Hit 25 homers and drove in 94 runs during the Pirates' world championship season in '79.
  • The Pirates got old quickly after winning the title, and Parker's success went directly to his waistline. He naturally became more injury prone, playing an average of 106 games with 11 homers and 56 RBI from '80-'83.
  • Becoming a free agent after the '83 season, he signed with the hometown Reds and began a career renaissance. In his four years in Cincinnati, he averaged 158 games, 27 homers and 108 RBI.
  • In '85, he led the NL in doubles with 42 and RBI with 125, adding 34 homers and finishing runner-up for NL MVP.
  • However, it was then when he and other players testified in the Pittsburgh drug trials, which exposed a substance abuse problem ravaging the game. Sordid tales of cocaine and amphetamine use were told by players granted immunity to implicate seven men for cocaine distribution. Parker avoided suspension and was fined by baseball for his drug use.
  • He played in all 162 games in '86 and continued to rake at age 35, hitting 31 homers, driving in 116 with a .273/.330/.477 slash.
  • In the off-season he was traded to the Athletics for Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas.
  • After hitting only 12 homers in his first season in Oakland, Parker clubbed 22 with 97 RBI in '89 as the Athletics won the World Series.
  • His last good season came in '90 with the Brewers, hitting .289 with 21 homers and 92 RBI.
  • Last year, he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he suffers from Parkinson's disease.
  • The two vivid memories I have of Parker as a baseball-crazy teenager in the '70s: Throwing out Jim Rice at third and Brian Downing at home in the '79 All-Star Game and the Sports Illustrated photo of him dragging on a butt in the dugout during spring training in '80. After seeing that image, it dawned on me baseball superstars weren't much different than the average smuck on the street. This completed my holy trinity of lost youth: Santa Claus is a myth, Farrah Fawcett a vapid image on glossy paper and Dave Parker a smoker. 


1 comment:

  1. In December, I ranked my five favorite 1976 Topps cards and Parker came out on top. This card is straight up... beautiful! And that all-star play was one of my favorite memories too. Great post.

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