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Friday, March 23, 2018

‘Roberto was our brother’: Dave Parker recalls first Pirates spring training after Clemente’s death

Roberto Clemente was more than a humanitarian, more than our spiritual team leader, more than a baseball angel. Roberto was our brother, and I never experienced a life shock this close to me. I started getting phone calls from friends and family, asking whether I heard what happened. Sometimes people want to connect with you over a tragedy, be there for you, and it’s genuine and all, but sometimes you just need to sit down by yourself and process what happened.

.....

They had me playing center all last year in the minors so I would get more balls hit to me and improve my fundamentals. My manager was Timmy Murtaugh (Danny’s kid) and he took great care of turning me into a quality defender (the Pirates signed me as a catcher, but that’s a story for another day). Could I play center for Pittsburgh? Not with Al Oliver there. We all called him “Scoop,” and he was, without a doubt, the most competitive dude I ever played with. Hardest worker on the team, 25 years old, hit .312 in 600 plate appearances the year before; he wasn’t going anywhere. And I haven’t gotten to Gene Clines yet — he led the team with a .334 batting average in ’72, 20th place in the NL MVP voting, and they weren’t even sure he had a starting spot because left field was being left open.

The organization wasn’t sure who would play there. Willie Stargell, another one of our team leaders, moved to first base when Bob Robertson, the Pirates’ postseason star home run hitter in ‘71, fell into a slump. Virdon told all the beat guys that Willie would be the starting first baseman, and with a good spring Bob Robertson would be the everyday left fielder, where he played a total of 25 times in five years. Oh yeah, and then we had a rookie named Richie Zisk, who only batted .308 and hit 26 homers at Triple-A Charleston. He hit for average, for power, and management let the reporters assume Richie was definitely making the team.

Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: March 23, 2018 at 01:11 PM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: al oliver, dave parker, dock ellis, pittsburgh pirates, roberto clemente

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: March 23, 2018 at 03:36 PM (#5642425)
I was 13 - I remember well coming downstairs and my mom telling me he was dead, then going back up the stairs and telling my sister. You can't prove cause and effect, but the team lived in a funk for a year and a half.
   2. Batman Posted: March 23, 2018 at 03:45 PM (#5642444)
ESPN Classic (or whatever it's called now) was showing a game from the 1979 World Series a couple of nights ago, and Parker, Willie Stargell and the Pirates all looked really cool. Well, except Tim Foli. They kept showing Mrs. Foli, though.
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 23, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5642528)
I was in high school at the time, and the centerfielder on our baseball team idolized Roberto Clemente. When I heard that Clemente had died, he was the first person I thought of, and I knew that someone had to tell him. I took a really deep breath, and made the call. He hadn't heard. I just figured it would be better coming from a friend, rather than an impersonal media broadcast.
   4. asinwreck Posted: March 23, 2018 at 08:09 PM (#5642543)
I am trying to imagine Dave Parker as a catcher. Pete Rose would not have done well barreling into him at the plate.
   5. Textbook Editor Posted: March 23, 2018 at 11:44 PM (#5642587)
ESPN Classic (or whatever it's called now) was showing a game from the 1979 World Series a couple of nights ago, and Parker, Willie Stargell and the Pirates all looked really cool. Well, except Tim Foli. They kept showing Mrs. Foli, though.


The 1979 WS was the first WS I was allowed to watch entire games for, even though it was at night and past my bedtime (I was 7). The only limitation was that I had to wait until my younger brother fell asleep before sneaking out of the room to watch the game on our 13" black and white TV. I have very vivid (albeit black and white vivid) memories of that WS.
   6. Tom T Posted: March 23, 2018 at 11:58 PM (#5642589)
The 1979 WS was the first WS I was allowed to watch entire games for, even though it was at night and past my bedtime (I was 7). The only limitation was that I had to wait until my younger brother fell asleep before sneaking out of the room to watch the game on our 13" black and white TV. I have very vivid (albeit black and white vivid) memories of that WS.


Ditto, except we had a 25" color TV! Doomed me to Pirate fandom for the rest of my life....
   7. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: March 24, 2018 at 07:29 AM (#5642602)
My favorite Dave Parker moment was seeing him on an episode of Reading Rainbow. Levar Burton goes to the A's spring training camp and hangs out with a lot of ballplayers, and there's an extended comic scene that mainly involves Parker standing there and being much more huge than everyone else. The internet tells me that it was 1989, season 7 episode 5, and that Ed Asner read a story about a dinosaur that loved to play baseball.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 24, 2018 at 08:13 AM (#5642607)
The 1979 WS was the first WS I was allowed to watch entire games for, even though it was at night and past my bedtime (I was 7). The only limitation was that I had to wait until my younger brother fell asleep before sneaking out of the room to watch the game on our 13" black and white TV. I have very vivid (albeit black and white vivid) memories of that WS.

That ####### Series was played in football weather, the five night games didn't start until nearly 9:00, there were a total of 17 errors, and during the games in Baltimore we had to listen to a group of Pirates wives sitting behind us in the upper deck serenading us with "WE ARE FAM-I-LEE". Let's just say the only people who could've enjoyed that pathetic excuse for a Series would've been Pirates fans watching it in the comfort of their homes or a warm bar.

Of course if the Orioles hadn't blown a 3-1 lead my memories might be a bit warm and fuzzier, but personally I'd as soon relive 1969. At least those games were played in the sunshine and were over before dinner.
   9. Lonnie Smith for president Posted: March 24, 2018 at 10:03 AM (#5642618)
The Cobra was a larger-than-life character in my childhood aka that era before unceasing video evidence of everything, bigger than any Topps card could hope to contain. The legend became fact when we saw him at the ASG in Seattle. Parker tipped his pillbox cap to the great Clemente with those sniper-shot throws from right field, cutting down Rice then Downing to snuff AL rallies. Pretty awesome for a "meaningless" exhibition game...
   10. bunyon Posted: March 24, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5642619)
I was not a Pirate fan and I loved the 1979 Series.

Yes, it was the first I was allowed to stay up for and the first I watched in color.
   11. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: March 24, 2018 at 10:42 AM (#5642620)
Ditto, except we had a 25" color TV! Doomed me to Pirate fandom for the rest of my life....


Was that free standing or some mighty bigass piece of furniture? I remember getting myself a 17" store model Sony Trinitron about that time and thinking that I was hot ####.
   12. stig-tossled,hornswoggled gef the talking mongoose Posted: March 24, 2018 at 11:46 AM (#5642632)

Ditto, except we had a 25" color TV!


Bourgeois decadance. I was 26 when I bought my first color TV in 3/86 at Sears (I recall the month because I was taking my first paid vacation ever). Bought my first VCR at Montgomery Ward during the same shopping trip.
   13. Tom T Posted: March 24, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5642638)
Was that free standing or some mighty bigass piece of furniture?


It was a big ol' free standing Philco color TV from about 1970, maybe 1969. Thing was probably 30+" tall (stood on 3-5" legs, as I recall) by 30-35" wide and probably 20-some inches deep.

I still remember going to the Hook's drug store to get replacement tubes for it. Dad used to spend *hours* working on the color convergence, etc., on that thing.

Eventually we got a solid state TV in the early '80s and that became my "play room" TV, and eventually what I used for my C64. Then one day in '86 the tube went with a nice pop and some magnificent magic smoke smell.....

Bourgeois decadance.


Absolutely!
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 24, 2018 at 01:29 PM (#5642645)
Bourgeois decadance.

You want to see a decadent bourgois TV? Try a 1951 Motorola. It cost my parents a mere $3,325 in 2018 dollars, all 17" of it.

That was the first set they ever bought, and the picture on all 4 channels was about as clear as a Burleigh Grimes spitball at twilight. But that's one hell of a commercial.
   15. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 24, 2018 at 02:30 PM (#5642655)
It's a footnote to the '79 World Series, but this game from the 1979 ALCS is one of the most exciting games that is never memorialized because the Angels trailed by 8 and made only a 7-run comeback, which ended with the bases loaded in a two-run 9th.
   16. stig-tossled,hornswoggled gef the talking mongoose Posted: March 24, 2018 at 02:40 PM (#5642656)
The TV I watched (occasionally) in late '84 was an big old square '50s set that had belonged to my great-aunt. Memory suggests it was a Philco, but probably in that regard I'm thinking of my mother's fridge. The picture wasn't particularly sharp, but it was legible. Makes me wonder how long it had been since a new tube was installed.
   17. Man o' Schwar Posted: March 24, 2018 at 02:56 PM (#5642660)
Then one day in '86 the tube went with a nice pop and some magnificent magic smoke smell.....

I remember that with our family TV. My mother freaked out, called the fire department, and rushed everyone out of the house. She was sure the set was going to explode any second.
   18. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 24, 2018 at 03:25 PM (#5642664)
You want to see a decadent bourgois TV? Try a 1951 Motorola. It cost my parents a mere $3,325 in 2018 dollars, all 17" of it.

That was the first set they ever bought, and the picture on all 4 channels was about as clear as a Burleigh Grimes spitball at twilight. But that's one hell of a commercial.


The commercial features Mrs. Leo Durocher...
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 24, 2018 at 03:48 PM (#5642668)
It's a footnote to the '79 World Series, but this game from the 1979 ALCS is one of the most exciting games that is never memorialized because the Angels trailed by 8 and made only a 7-run comeback, which ended with the bases loaded in a two-run 9th.

That was an afternoon game, and a friend and I got stuck in traffic and arrived right when Eddie Murray had made it 8-1 with a home run in the 2nd. Those last 2 innings were the cause of 16 heart attacks, 5 strokes, and 337 emergency trips to the loo. ####### Stan The Man Unusual took nearly every batter to a full count, and if Dan Ford had had a little more patience he would've walked in the tying run instead of grounding out to (finally) end the game.

The game the night before was also a nailbiter, but it ended with a walkoff slice off the foul pole by Brother Lo to end the game in the 10th.
   20. djordan Posted: March 24, 2018 at 04:45 PM (#5642683)
There's a handful of great LCS games that have been forgotten to history. I've thought a lot about that an interesting subject.
   21. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: March 25, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5642776)
Of course if the Orioles hadn't blown a 3-1 lead my memories might be a bit warm and fuzzier, but personally I'd as soon relive 1969. At least those games were played in the sunshine and were over before dinner.


I'm sort of new here, but I thought you were a Yankee fan?
   22. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 25, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5642778)
There's a handful of great LCS games that have been forgotten to history. I've thought a lot about that an interesting subject.

And then there's a handful of years where both LCS series and the World Series went the limit (1972 and 1973), or when the NLCS fell one game short but made up for it with overall drama (1985 and 1986). I still think that overall the 1972 postseason was the best one ever: The NLCS decided on a last inning comeback featuring a game tying home run by Johnny Bench and a walkoff wild pitch; an ALCS final game won by a single run where Reggie Jackson broke a leg while stealing home, and where Vida Blue, banished to the bullpen for the entire LCS, saved the game with 4 innings of shutout relief; and a World Series where 6 of the 7 games were decided by 1 run, with game 7 of the World Series ending with a fly ball to the warning track with the tying run on base.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course if the Orioles hadn't blown a 3-1 lead my memories might be a bit warm and fuzzier, but personally I'd as soon relive 1969. At least those games were played in the sunshine and were over before dinner.

I'm sort of new here, but I thought you were a Yankee fan?


Lifelong Yankees fan, but also a fan of the Orioles from the time I discovered Memorial Stadium in 1961. Quiet as it's kept, not everyone has only one team he likes. You might even be one of those people yourself.
   23. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: March 25, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5642796)
Always good to see stuff by Dave Jordan. I enjoy stories by players like these. This makes me appreciate Dave Parker more.
   24. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: March 25, 2018 at 01:31 PM (#5642798)
Parker is my go to example of how the All Star game has changed because of TV. Nowadays you see every game you want and highlights endlessly. As a kid I had heard about Parker’s arm but until he spent an evening humiliating American League runners in 1980 or so I never really had an appreciation for that arm. Seeing guys in the ASG was a rare chance to see players from teams in the other league.

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