Dave Parker still swings hard.
Parker, the former Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds slugger, says he believes he should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Parker drove from his home in Cincinnati to Fort Wayne to meet fans at Parkview Field on behalf of the Principal Financial Group.
He put on a TinCaps cap and spoke bluntly.
“I figure I was the most dominant player through my era,” he said. “I'm not in the Hall of Fame, but all the Hall of Famers know what I brought to the table. My numbers are as good as most Hall of Famers who went in over the last five or six years. I just hope I get in while I'm vertical.”
Parker's time on the Hall of Fame ballot of the Baseball Writers Association of America expired this year, and he never received more than 24 percent of the vote. His numbers compare favorably with other Hall of Fame players from the era. He hit .290 with 339 home runs and 2,712 hits. He was a seven-time All-Star, won the 1978 National League MVP, won three Gold Gloves and played on two World Series champions (Pirates, 1979; A's, 1989).
“I was one of the most quotable guys in baseball,” he said, conjuring this lost gem as an example: ‘When the leaves turn brown, I'll be wearing the batting crown.'
“It couldn't be because I was unquotable. It couldn't be because of the numbers, because my numbers are there. It's political, for whatever reason.”
Parker played in the majors from 1973 to 1991, with his prime years playing for the Pirates (1973-1983) and Reds (1984-1987). During that time he was one of the most feared hitters in the game, as well as an outstanding right fielder with an incredible arm. He became the first player to earn $1 million a year.
The knock on Parker most likely dates to his part in a drug scandal. He testified against a dealer in court and was fined by Major League Baseball for his admission to using drugs, including cocaine.
“I was a recreational user,” Parker said. “I never had a problem where I needed to be rehabilitated. In that situation, I was the biggest name there. They went after me more so than other players. Everybody knew the same guy. It's just that I was Dave Parker. It happened. I got over it. I'm glad to see some of the guys who had problems recover from their problems. We went through that cocaine era. I'm glad that it's done.”
Parker's post-playing career includes ownership of several Popeye's Chicken franchises. He coached a year with the Angels and a year with the Cardinals and said he would like to get back into baseball.
If Parker is to get into the Hall of Fame now, he'll have to rely on the Veterans Committee to give him another look in the years ahead.
“As time goes by, the less it means to me because I did everything possible,” Parker said. “I played the game the way it should be played. I played hard. I never missed a plane, never missed a game. I don't know what it is. They talk about baseball being forgiving and society being forgiving. Well, forgive me and let me be where I need to be.”