Thursday, June 9, 2016

Cobras live to 65

Your friendly neighborhood herpetologist will tell you that a king cobra sometimes lives to be as old as 20 years of age. But I know a cobra who is 65 today.

I have no real connection to Dave Parker. He didn't play for the Dodgers. In fact, I'm sure he damaged the Dodgers in more than a few games. I wouldn't know though because I was probably too busy waiting for Willie Stargell home runs to land after being launched off of L.A. hurlers.

But Parker, as troublesome as he was during his playing career, holds a special place in my heart like all '70s ballplayers do. And it's an extra special place because of what Parker was able to achieve during that time when I was getting to know baseball -- those amazing moments during the 1979 season. First, there was the All-Star Game throw, and then a number of postseason starring roles afterward.

Today, Parker, once one of the young stars of my youth, is now retirement age. He's turned 65. In his honor, I pulled 12 of my favorite Parker cards in my collection for you to get to know. You guys who grew up in the '70s probably know these by heart. You guys who came along later, probably wish you did.


The 1974 card is Parker's rookie card. It was one of the last cards I needed to complete the set. That was particularly irksome because I remember my brother -- all of 7 or 8 years old at the time -- owning this card right around the time it was issued. And by "owning," I mean, I could have snatched that card for my collection so easily without him even knowing.


This is the card that I equate with Parker. I did not know who Parker was when I pulled his 1976 issue. I gathered from his 1975 season on the back that he was pretty damn good. But only as the '76 season progressed, and I watched as many Saturday afternoon games on NBC as I could, did I know what I held in my hands. And suddenly, it was as if Parker is being jet-propelled in this photo.


These '78 all-star shield cards. How momentous was this card in 1978? If a card could be a living being this is what we're considering here. The '78 all-star cards were so ALIVE and Parker as vibrant as any of his shield brethren. Parker was a certified star by this point.


By now you're probably realizing that Parker has a little "even-year bullshit" going on with his cards. This is the 1980 Kellogg's issue. But unlike the Giants, Parker deserves his even-year accolades. The Cobra didn't appear in the dark jersey tops nearly enough on his cards. But Kellogg's served up an extra deadly dark version this particular year.


This photo was all over 1981 card issues, but it goes best with the Topps flagship set. The Pirates received a design made just for them in '81 and Parker's outfit just reinforces how Pirate this card is.



Dave Parker was a beast. He was a force. That's what you'll hear from people today. This 1982 Donruss card, though, shows you. Parker holds the remnants of his bat in his hands. The rest disintegrated when he merely looked at it.


I love candid shots.


Is this the first example of a player speaking into a microphone on a Topps card (non-postseason edition)? Is this the first example of a player wearing an earring on a baseball card? True or not, Parker was a trend-setter.


As a Dodger fan, this not the face you want to see when Dave Parker is standing in Dodger Stadium.



The mid-80s was a sad time for Parker, and a sad time for those of us who loved the '70s. Tarnished by the drug scandal of that period, Parker left Pittsburgh for the Reds, where they made him shave. It took me a full two years to recognize him after that. But I like this card of the clean-cut Cobra. He remained an all-star.


All right, this one is just weird. I could never figure out Parker as a Brewer. And that smile, wow. It's almost muppet-like. The whole thing doesn't seem real. Yet it amuses me, which is what an oddball card should do.


We come full-circle with this 2003 Fan Favorites card. This is Parker as close to his 1974 rookie card appearance as possible. It's nice to get another look at the youthful Parker, even though I'm not that familiar with it.

I took a tour through some of the more recent Parker cards issued. There are a handful of decent ones, but few of them capture the thrill of those cards issued during the Cobra's peak years.

Happy 65th to one of the most colorful players of the '70s.

8 comments:

  1. If you think parker as a brewer was weird, what about him as an angel? I went to a game at the big a during that time and couldn't get my head around it. It was cool to see him swinging a sledgehammer in the on deck circle, though.

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    1. Or as a Jay.. I have a couple cards of him from his half season as a Jay

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  2. Nice blast from the past...and timely too. I have that 78 Topps Parker as the top card of a pile of cards on my nightstand right now.

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  3. I recall a story from my youth (fm The Sporting News, probably) that a reporter asked Parker why he wore a Star of David pendant around his neck. Naturally, his response was, "My name is David, and I'm a star". Always thought he was the coolest after that.....

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  4. I always thought Parker should get some consideration for the Hall of Fame. He's just on the cusp in my opinion, kind of like Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Lee Smith. Never saw him play, but he put up great power numbers and is in enough of the 'retired star player' sets in the past 20 years that I could just tell he was a larger than life player during his career.

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  5. I'm constantly picking up Parker cards on the cheap. Even autos will often go below $10. I think the Kellogs card is my favorite.

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  6. The 1976 Topps Parker is my favorite card in the set... and off the top of my head... my favorite card of him. It really epitomizes what a baseball card should look like.

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