Dave Parker's larger-than-life legacy is one MLB fans should never forget

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

Few baseball players made a bigger impression during the 1970s and 1980s than Dave Parker.

That was in part due to his impressive physical stature. At 6-foot-5, Parker towered over his peers while bringing an intimidating presence to the baseball diamond.

More than anything, though, it was Parker’s larger-than-life personality that captivated the national pastime over his 19-year career.

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Parker was a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Pirates' World Series championship team in 1979, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. He was an offensive anchor and a veteran leader for the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics, which included another championship with Oakland in 1989. He was among the very best of his generation, combining strength and athleticism like very few during the height of his career.

Parker earned the nickname "Cobra" because of his ability to strike at any time. That could just as easily be a breathtaking throw from the outfield to nail an unsuspecting baserunner as it could be a monstrous home run. Parker had the ability to change the game in so many ways.

Now, the 68-year-old baseball legend is showing his strength off the field. A seven-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease has taken a toll on Parker’s body, but not his fighting spirit.

Parker's incredible life, legacy and his on-going battle will all be chronicled on the next edition of MLB Network Presents titled “The Cobra at Twilight.” The 90-minute documentary will premiere on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

We were fortunate to be given a look before its first airing. “The Cobra at Twilight” is highly recommended viewing, not just for baseball fans, but everyone. His story truly transcends baseball.

Why you should watch

If you were lucky enough to witness Dave Parker's career, you'll enjoy reliving his career highlights and remembering just how good he was on the field.

If you're not familiar with Dave Parker, get ready for a crash course look into one of the most charismatic athletes to step onto any sports stage.

There are so many layers to Parker's story. From his humble beginnings growing up near Crosley Field in Cincinnati, to the injury that changed his course from to football to baseball, to the the incredible endorsement he received from Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

There are highs, which include Parker’s MVP season in 1978. That season led to Parker becoming the first professional athlete to earn an average of $1 million per year. There are also lows. Parker talks openly about his love-hate relationship with Pirates fans and his cocaine use, which many believe cost him a second MVP with Cincinnati in 1985.

“The Cobra at Twilight” bridges generations. It’s an opportunity to witness the impact Parker had as a seven-time All-Star player. Pete Rose, Tony La Russa, and Super Bowl champion player and coach Tony Dungy are just some legends who share tales of that dominance. We also learn how Parker mentored a young Barry Larkin, challenging him to take his game to what ended up being a Hall of Fame level.

MLB Network will profile the life and career of baseball legend Dave Parker. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
MLB Network will profile the life and career of baseball legend Dave Parker. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Muhammad Ali of baseball

Parker’s brash style and personality quickly earned him comparisons to the ultimate showman in sports, Muhammad Ali.

Like Ali, Parker often trash-talked anyone who would listen, and more often than not backed it up. He once promised “when the leaves turn brown, I'll be wearing the batting crown” and sure enough that was true too.

Parker had a way of pushing people’s buttons. Sometimes they were the right buttons. Sometimes they weren’t. He didn’t necessarily care which way it went, he always made sure his voice was heard.

The program also delves into the respect Parker had for Ali, the one and only time they met, and the similar paths their lives took as Ali also battled Parkinson’s Disease in the final years of his life.

Still looking for Hall of Fame call

Dave Parker’s name appeared on the Modern Baseball Era ballot for consideration in the 2020 Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he fell short of the 12 votes needed from the 16-person committee to gain election. The committee elected Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons.

Those who know and love Dave Parker, and those who played alongside him, all believe that he earned a place in Cooperstown. The Baseball Writers Association of America did not agree. Though he spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, Parker never received more than 24.5 percent of the vote. He’s also previously fallen short with the Modern Baseball Era committee, earning less than 50 percent in 2017.

His chances now seem slim, but even if Dave Parker is not destined to be in the Hall of Fame, this documentary reminds us that his legacy is not one that should be forgotten.

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