12/23/09 7:00 PM EST
Parker believes his place is in Hall
Slugger was one of most feared hitters in league in '70s
By Ed Eagle and Jenifer Langosch / 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 13 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. Last year, Parker received just 81 votes (15 percent) in the balloting.
A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election, with former slugger Andre Dawson (67 percent), former Twins ace Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent), and former closer Lee Smith (44.5 percent) standing as the top three returning vote-getters.
During his first five full seasons in the Major Leagues, from 1975 to '79, 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 '77 and '78, was named the National League MVP in '78 and the All-Star Game MVP in '79, and helped lead the Pirates' "Family" to a World Series title in '79.
"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 last year. "There were times when I shouldn't have been out there at all. But [former Pittsburgh 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 Reds in 1984. Parker led the NL in RBIs and total bases in '85 and finished as the runner-up to St. Louis' Willie McGee in the NL MVP race that season.
Parker later went on to serve as an important cog on the A's 1988 AL championship and '89 World Series championship teams and appeared in the 1990 All-Star Game as a member of the Brewers.
By the time he decided to hang up the cleats for good in 1991, Parker's 19-year big league totals included a .290 average, 2,712 hits, 339 home runs and 1,493 RBIs -- numbers he has always believed were worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.
"I won two batting titles, should have won two MVPs, was in three World Series, was the MVP of the All-Star Game, DH of the Year twice, and won the RBI crown," Parker said. "I did everything that you could possibly do in baseball and I'm not in the Hall?
"I should be in the Hall of Fame. Ain't no doubt about it."
Ed Eagle is a reporter and producer for MLB.com.