01/04/11 3:02 PM EST
Parker looks for Hall call in final opportunity
By Jenifer Langosch and Ed Eagle / MLB.com
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 14 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. And he's down to his final chance.
Players can remain on the BBWAA ballot for up to 15 years, meaning that this vote will exhaust Parker's eligibility. The chances of Parker receiving the minimum 75 percent needed for election is highly unlikely given his voting history.
His highest vote total percentage was 24.5 percent in 1998. Last year, Parker received just 82 votes (15.2 percent) in the balloting. That marked Parker's highest total since collecting 16.3 percent of the vote in 2001.
Most expect former Twins ace Bert Blyleven and Gold Glove infielder Roberto Alomar to become members of the 2011 Hall of Fame class, as both fell fewer than 10 votes short of enshrinement in the last vote. Among those who will join Blyleven and Alomar on the ballot are first-time candidates Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and Tino Martinez.
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," Parker said. "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 American League championship and '89 World Series championship teams, and appeared in the '90 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."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Ed Eagle is a producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.