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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 Template:By to Template:By, he threw out 72 runners, including 26 in Template:By.

He was a baseball All-Star in Template:By, Template:By, Template:By, Template:By, 1985, Template:By, and Template:By. 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 careerEdit

Pittsburgh PiratesEdit

In the early 1970s, as a member of the Pirates AAA minor league ball team Charleston (WV) Charlies, Parker 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] He began his major league career on July 12, 1973 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he played from Template:By to Template:By. 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.[2] The Pirates rewarded him with baseball's first million-dollar-per-year contract.[3][4] The following year, he was an instrumental part of the Pirates' World Series championship team.[5]

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.Template: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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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 careerEdit

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.[6] In 1985, he enjoyed his best season since he won the Template:By 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 Template:By 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 Template:By. 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.

RetirementEdit

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.[9] Parker now has had both of his knees replaced due to knee injuries from his playing career.[10]

Parker never got more than 24% of votes on Hall of Fame ballots and his 15-year Baseball Writers Association of America eligibility was exhausted on the 2011 ballot.


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