11 Apr

film study

Dave Parker, stricken with Parkinson’s Disease, is a very sympathetic figure these days, quite a contrast to his playing career, when he was robust and brash and a lightning rod for controversy. If you’re catching up on baseball films you’ve missed, be sure to watch “The Cobra at Twilight,” released in December 2019 as part of the MLB Network Presents series. Though not often associated with Mississippi – the film never mentions his birthplace — Parker was born in Grenada in 1951. According to a Society of American Baseball Research story, he was one of six kids of Richard and Dannie Mae Parker. Dave came by his athletic gifts naturally. “My mother had a cannon for an arm,” he said in the SABR piece. “My dad never got to play organized ball. But he’d crush that ball. And he could run like a scalded rabbit.” The Parkers moved to Cincinnati when Dave was 5, and he became a three-sport star in high school there. A knee injury curtailed his football career, but the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in 1970 and by 1973 he was in the big leagues. By the time he was through – 18 years and five teams later – the Cobra was a seven-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, two-time batting champion, two-time World Series champ and one-time National League MVP. He also endured weight problems, injury problems and drug problems and said and did some unpopular things, such as skipping the Pirates’ 1979 World Series victory parade. He was a frequent target of criticism, sometimes racially tinged, from fans and media in Pittsburgh, where he played through 1983. (Time heals all wounds, as they say, and one of the great scenes in the MLB Network film is Parker’s return to Pittsburgh for a ’79 Pirates reunion.) Parker, who belongs on any list of the greatest athletes from Mississippi, is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a theme of the film, and is no longer on the writers’ ballot. Tony LaRussa, Pete Rose, Barry Larkin, Dennis Eckersley and others offer strong testimonials to Parker’s talent and impact. Parker, when asked about his possible election someday by a veterans committee, remarks, “I might not show up.” It was hard to tell if he was joking, which might have been his point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: