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12/25/06 10:00 AM ET
Parker gave his all, awaits Hall's call
NL MVP, two-time batting champ's stats affected by injuries
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
There was a time during the late 1970s when Dave Parker was arguably the best player in baseball, and he seemed destined to one day be immortalized in the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame. An intimidating 6-foot-6, 235-pound right fielder with a sweet swing and powerful arm, there was nothing Parker couldn't do on the baseball diamond during his prime. He epitomized the term "five-tool player." In a 1978 poll of general managers, he was selected as the best player in the game. However, after 11 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Hall of Fame ballot, the man known as "The Cobra" is still waiting for the writers to punch his ticket to Cooperstown. His highest vote total percentage was 24.5 percent in 1998, and Parker garnered 14.4 percent of the total on the most recent ballot. A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election. Results of the 2007 BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be announced Jan. 9, and the induction ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown. During his first five full seasons in the Major Leagues, from 1975 to 1979, Parker batted .322 with an average of 23 home runs, 98 RBIs and 16 stolen bases per season. He earned back-to-back batting titles in 1977 and 1978, was named the National League MVP in 1978 and the All-Star Game MVP in 1979, and helped lead the Pirates "Family" to a World Series title in 1979. "Parker gave 100 percent effort in every inning of every game that he played," said Chuck Tanner, who was Pittsburgh's manager from 1977-85. "He was one of the greatest I ever managed and one of the greatest who ever played, in my opinion. He has Hall of Fame credentials." An assortment of injuries significantly reduced Parker's production from 1980-83. During that four-year stretch, Parker batted .280 with an average of just 11 home runs and 56 RBIs per season. "I wasn't quite myself as a player," said Parker. "There were times when I shouldn't have been out there at all. But [former Pirates teammate Willie] Stargell impressed upon me to be a star and a leader. He said, 'Seventy-five or 80 percent of you is better than 100 percent of someone else.' I made those sacrifices because that's what I was taught. Willie emphasized that to me as a young player and I believed it. "There were a couple of years where my numbers probably weren't what they should have been," Parker added. "But for the majority of those 10 years, from 1975 to '80, I was probably the best player in the game." Despite being embroiled in the highly publicized drug trial that rocked the baseball world, Parker turned his career back around after signing a free-agent contract with his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 1984. Parker led the NL in RBIs and total bases in 1985 and finished as the runner-up to St. Louis' Willie McGee in the NL MVP race that season.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.