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David Gene "The Cobra" Parker (born June 9, 1951 in Calhoun, Mississippi) is an American former player in Major League Baseball. He was the 1978 National League MVP and a two-time batting champion.

Parker's career achievements include 2712 hits, 339 home runs, 1493 runs batted in and a lifetime batting average of .290. Parker was also known as a solid defensive outfielder during the first half of his career, with a powerful arm. From 1975 to 1979, he threw out 72 runners, including 26 in 1977.

He was a baseball All-Star in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, and 1990. In the 1979 All-Star Game, Parker showcased his defensive ability and powerful arm by throwing out Jim Rice at third base and Angels catcher Brian Downing at home. Parker also contributed an RBI on a sacrifice fly and was named the game's MVP.

Playing career[]

Pittsburgh Pirates[]

In the early 1970s, as a member of the Pirates AAA minor league ball team Charleston (WV) Charlies, Parker allegedly hit a home run that landed on a coal car on a passing train and the ball was later picked up in Columbus Ohio.[1] However, in a 1975 interview, Parker stated, "When I played for Charleston I always had the ambition to hit a home run onto a moving train. I really used to shoot for that. I hit a few on the tracks, but never as a train was going by."[2] He began his major league career on July 12, 1973 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he played from 1973 to 1983. In 1977, he was National League batting champion, a feat he repeated in 1978 when he was named the National League's MVP. This was in spite of a collision at home plate with John Stearns during a game against the Mets on June 30, 1978 in which Parker fractured his jaw and cheekbone; he wore a facemask in order to minimize his time away from the lineup.[3] The Pirates rewarded him with baseball's first million-dollar-per-year contract.[4][5] The following year, he was an instrumental part of the Pirates' World Series championship team.[6]

During a game in 1979, a powerful hit he made to right field was very difficult to throw into the infield, because he had "knocked the cover off the ball." One of the seams on the ball ruptured, making nearly half of the cover come loose.[citation needed]

Pittsburgh fans angered by his million-dollar contract threw "nuts and bolts and bullets and batteries" at him, as pitcher Kent Tekulve stated; a typo in a news story made it appear that they threw car batteries.[7]

In 1981, at a point in his career when it looked as if he would one day rank among the game's all-time greats, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.[8] The authors, noting that Parker had succeeded Roberto Clemente at the position, wrote, "Someone must have a fondness for right field in Pittsburgh."

However, in the early 1980s, Parker's hitting suffered due to injuries, weight problems and his increasing cocaine use.[9] He became one of the central figures in a drug scandal that spread through the major leagues. Parker was among several players who testified against a dealer in the Pittsburgh drug trials and he was later fined by Major League Baseball for his admitted drug use.

Later career[]

At the end of the 1983 season, Parker became a free agent and signed with the Cincinnati Reds. In Cincinnati, he returned to the form that made him an All-Star in Pittsburgh.[7] In 1985, he enjoyed his best season since he won the 1978 MVP with a .312 batting average, 34 home runs, and 125 RBI. Parker finished second in 1985 MVP voting to Willie McGee.

After the 1987 season, Cincinnati traded Parker to the Oakland Athletics for José Rijo and Tim Birtsas. In Oakland, Parker was able to extend his career by spending most of his time as a designated hitter. Although injuries and age caught up to him to a degree – he hit just .257 with 12 homers in 377 at-bats in 1988 and .264 with 22 homers in 553 at-bats in 1989 – his veteran leadership was a significant factor in the A's consecutive World Series appearances.

Parker signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1990 season and had a solid year as the Brewers' DH with a .289 average and 21 home runs in 610 at-bats. However, Milwaukee opted for youth at the end of the year and traded the aging Parker for Dante Bichette.

Parker's last season was 1991. He played for the California Angels until late in the season when he was released. The Toronto Blue Jays then signed him as insurance for the pennant race, and Parker hit .333 in limited action. However, since he was acquired too late in the season, he did not qualify for inclusion on the post-season roster and thus was unable to play in the American League Championship Series against the Minnesota Twins, which the Blue Jays lost in five games. Parker retired at the end of the season.


Parker has served as a first-base coach for the Anaheim Angels, a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998, and a special hitting instructor for Pittsburgh. He owns several Popeye's Chicken franchises in Cincinnati.[10] Parker now has had both of his knees replaced due to knee injuries from his playing career.[11]

Hall of Fame candidacy[]

Parker first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1997, with his final year of eligibility being in 2011. While 75% of the vote is needed for induction, he has never received more than 24.5% of the vote[12].

See also[]


  1. "Parker Excited to Return to Charleston," The Charleston Gazette, May 1, 2009.
  2. "Parker Has Fond Memories", The Charleston Daily Mail, August 19, 1975.
  3. Paul Lukas, "Aggh! It's Dave Parker at the plate!," ESPN Page 2, July 29, 2008, accessed March 9, 2009.
  4. Derek A. Reveron, "Dave Parker: Big Man, Big Bat and Baseball's Biggest Salary," Ebony October 1979: "the reported five=year, $5 million contract he agreed to in January."
  5. "Parker's $5 Million Pact Says He's Baseball's Best," Jet February 22, 1979, p. 48.
  6. Dave Parker as told to George Vass, "The Game I'll Never Forget," Baseball Digest April 1985, pp. 79-80: "I've been a big influence in some pennant races. We won the division three years when I was at Pittsburgh ('74, '75 and '79), and we won the World Series in 1979."
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mike Downey, "Dave Parker Left His Anger, not His Talent, in Pittsburgh: During his second season in Cincinnati, he produced some big numbers, reminiscent of his happy days with the Pirates," Baseball Digest November 1985, repr. from The Los Angeles Times: pp. 30-31.
  8. New York: Crown, ISBN 0517543001.
  9. "Reds Star Dave Parker Admits Cocaine Use," Lakeland Ledger September 12, 1985: "In his first public admission of drug use, Parker said that he bought cocaine from [Curtis] Strong and used it with him in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia."
  10. Jon Newberry. "Franchise businesses opening doors of opportunity", Business Courier of Cincinnati, 2007-12-28. Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
  11. [[[KICU]] telecast, Oakland A's vs Chicago White Sox, 17 August 2008, per Dave Henderson]
  12. Dave Parker at Baseball Reference.

External links[]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by:
Bill Madlock
National League Batting Champion
Succeeded by:
Keith Hernandez
Preceded by:
Pete Rose
Dale Murphy
National League Player of the Month
August & September 1978
May 1985
Succeeded by:
George Foster
Pedro Guerrero
Preceded by:
George Foster
National League Most Valuable Player
Succeeded by:
Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell
Preceded by:
Steve Garvey
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Most Valuable Player

Succeeded by:
Ken Griffey, Sr.
Preceded by:
Home Run Derby Champion
Succeeded by:
Wally Joyner
Darryl Strawberry
Preceded by:
Gary Carter & Mike Schmidt
National League RBI Champion
Succeeded by:
Mike Schmidt
Preceded by:
Bill Lachemann
Anaheim Angels First Base Coach
Succeeded by:
George Hendrick