Dave Parker is literally the reason I write about the Pirates.
When the opportunity came my way in the summer of 2019, I remembered my thirteen-year-old suburban white Jersey girl self sitting in front of the TV during the 1979 World Series, wearing the Pirates pillbox cap that my PPG Paints-employed uncle had brought back from the Burgh. I was rooting for the Famalee because no good Yankees fan in her right mind would EVER root for the Orioles. I remembered my mom, who had died the December before, saying what a handsome man Parker was, so I rooted for him in particular.
I put all that in my resume, and here I am.
And on April second, I spoke to the Cobra.
For the most part, I did not fangirl all over the place.
When I did, Dave was gracious enough to laugh. And to bless my mom.
Dave’s autobiography with Dave Jordan, Cobra: A Lifetime of Baseball and Brotherhood, came out on April first from the University of Nebraska Press. As first a reader and then a baseball fan, I can say that it’s worth the read. If you had that question, Dave answered it in detail. I read it twice, first for entertainment, then for information. It didn’t disappoint on either count.
So that’s why it took me over a week and hitting up two fandoms to gather questions that weren’t in the book. Some may take issue at the lack of Pirates-related questions, but again, Dave goes into tons of detail in the book about his Buccos years and you know I’m trying to get yinz to read more. Also, my time with Dave was shorter than I would have liked. Such are the realities of a telephone press tour.
So here we go!
(By far the most asked question that amazingly wasn’t in the book!)
Who was your least favorite pitcher to bat against, and why?
Dave batted against a lot of the greats, but when I asked him this question, there was zero hesitation on his part: Steve Carlton. “I just couldn’t,” he said. LOTS OF PEOPLE COULDN’T, COBRA.
In the book, Dave talks a lot about being mentored under Dock Ellis and Willie Stargell, so I asked him this: Do you think that older players mentoring younger ones is still encouraged in MLB?
He said no. “You have 25 guys coming out 25 different ways.”
Baseball was your third-best sport, and you say in the book that your dream had always been to play pro football. If your high school knee injury hadn’t prevented it from happening, would you have still aimed for football even with a shorter career?
He totally ignored basketball and named baseball as his second-best sport (I’ll call age and be like, “when he was young, no one aspired to go into the NBA.” Got it.) He said this: “I love the game, I love the contact. Football is not long.”
In 1997, Dave coached for the then Anaheim Angels, who were being managed by his longtime friend Terry Collins. As you may remember, Collins was fired by the Angels the following year allegedly after a coup d’etat led by Mo Vaughn. I asked Dave what, if anything, he knew about the Vaughn/Collins friction.
“Mo’s a good hitter and was in demand,” he said. “I had some time with him.” Vaughn told him that he “couldn’t learn nothing from him,” though. This was the only question that Dave seemed to have an issue with (my judgment, anyway), so I decided not to press him on it.
A question that I also posed somewhat hesitantly was about his high school friend Bill Flowers. Flowers features prominently in Cobra, as he was drafted the same year as Dave but much higher; he went to the Cleveland Indians in the second round. Unlike Dave, however, he never really got past Triple-A, and in the book, he just kind of drops out of sight. I did some research but really couldn’t find anything else on him, but my curiosity was such that I asked Dave if he was still in contact with him.
“I just talked with Bill yesterday!” he exclaimed happily. He also keeps in touch with many of his former Pirates and Reds teammates—”I call them on Christmas.”
I finished up with a just-for-fun question. Dave references a lot of great seventies and eighties music in Cobra, so I asked him, “Brothers Johnson or Gap Band?”
His quick answer: Gap Band. But he also threw in a sleeper: Frankie Beverly and Maze.
Good answer, Dave.
Special thanks to Adam Rifenberick of Press Box Publicity for getting me set up with Dave.