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Bucs teammates back Parker for Hall of Fame

Pirates legend among 10 players on Modern Era ballot
Special to MLB.com

John Candelaria has never been to Cooperstown, N.Y. However, he's vowed to make the trip if his friend and former teammate, Dave Parker, gets elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I'd go up there to see him get inducted. That's how much I love David as a person and a player," Candelaria said. "He was such a great talent. I believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I've said this before, but he's a lot better than a lot of players that are in the Hall of Fame right now."

John Candelaria has never been to Cooperstown, N.Y. However, he's vowed to make the trip if his friend and former teammate, Dave Parker, gets elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I'd go up there to see him get inducted. That's how much I love David as a person and a player," Candelaria said. "He was such a great talent. I believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I've said this before, but he's a lot better than a lot of players that are in the Hall of Fame right now."

The two men were teammates for nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. During that time, Parker won two straight batting titles (1977-78) and the 1978 National League MVP Award and the Bucs were crowned World Series champions in '79. Candelaria's highlights included tossing a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in '76 and winning 20 games in '77.

MLB.com's Hall of Fame coverage

Video: 1981 ASG: Parker goes deep to give the NL the lead

Parker as a candidate for the Hall of Fame is a topic of discussion again because his name is one of 10 that appear on the Modern Baseball Era ballot this year. At the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 10, a 16-person committee will decide which men on that list -- if any -- will be headed to Cooperstown. In order to get elected, an individual must receive votes from at least 12 committee members.

Joining Parker on the Modern Baseball Era ballot are Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, Alan Trammell and Marvin Miller, the longtime head of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Parker spent 11 of his 19 Major League seasons with Pittsburgh (1973-83). He became the team's next great right fielder a couple of years after the passing of Roberto Clemente. Known as "The Cobra," Parker was powerfully built at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, but he wasn't a big man who lumbered around. He was a fantastic athlete, and the walking, talking definition of a five-tool player.

"It should be obvious to all that Dave is a Hall of Famer," said former first baseman-outfielder Al Oliver, who played with Parker in Pittsburgh from 1973-77. "The Pirates were fortunate to have somebody like him come up and replace Roberto. He was a great player who could do it all. As far as his talent goes, it's a no-brainer that he's a Hall of Famer."

Video: 1979: Parker throws Downing out at home

"There was a stretch where nobody in the game was better. Hands down, Dave was the best all-around player," added former pitcher Jim Rooker, who was also a member of Pittsburgh's great teams of the 1970s. "When he was at his best, teams just couldn't figure out a way to get him out. Plus, his defensive skills were outstanding. There are guys in the Hall of Fame totally because of their offense. But Dave was a complete player."

Parker compiled a .290 batting average and collected 2,712 hits, 339 home runs and 1,493 RBIs during his career. The seven-time All-Star won three Gold Glove Awards and three Silver Slugger Awards. Plus, he was MVP of the 1979 All-Star Game in Seattle -- because of his arm, as he threw out Jim Rice at third base in seventh inning and Brian Downing at home plate in the eighth in a 7-6 National League victory.

Parker's best season after his days in Pittsburgh came as a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 1985, when he led the NL in doubles (42), RBIs (125) and total bases (350) and finished second to St. Louis Cardinals speedster Willie McGee in balloting for the NL MVP Award. At 39 in 1990, he put together an All-Star season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

What does Parker think about a possible path to the Hall of Fame via the Modern Baseball Era ballot? 

"It would be the greatest honor ever bestowed upon me if I make the Hall of Fame," said Parker, 66, retired from the restaurant business and living in the Cincinnati area. "I feel like I should have been in prior to now, but I'm glad this avenue is open. The committee has a lot of decisions to make because it's a great group of players. But I'm hoping there are 12 votes out there for me."

Despite battling Parkinson's disease in recent years, Parker remains in good spirits and is hanging tough.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I have good days and bad days, but everyone does. I found some medicine that agrees with me, and I've been doing pretty well."

Parker hopes to get a call from the Hall of Fame, inviting him to the 2018 induction ceremonies, which will take place in Cooperstown in late July. It would be a great phone call to take.

"Yes, it would be," he said. "It would take me back to when I won the MVP Award in 1978. I was sitting at home by myself, with just my dog, waiting for the phone to ring. That's my memory from that day."

The dog was a miniature schnauzer named "Cobra." No lie.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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