The three stages of Parker’s career began when he replaced Roberto Clemente as right fielder of the Pirates. As Parker’s tall frame filled out, he became an imposing hitter, capable of batting for power and average. His powerful right arm compared with Clemente’s and was best shown off during the 1979 All Star-Game, when Parker cut down two runners on the bases. He won three Gold Gloves.
In 1978, despite playing with a broken jaw, Parker almost single-handedly led Pittsburgh’s second-half charge that fell just short of catching Philadelphia. He became the first Pirate since Clemente to earn the Most Valuable Player award.
Knee and weight problems began to rob Parker of his power in 1979 and 1980. His reduced quality was also attributed to drug problems. Owning a million-dollar contract, with millions more in deferred payments, Parker became a villain in Pittsburgh, the object of boos, thrown objects, and threats as the Pirates sank in the NL East.
Parker regained his status as a run-producing threat when traded to his hometown, Cincinnati, but had become a defensive liability. He was traded to the Athletics following the 1987 season and contributed to their 1988 and 1989 AL pennants as a DH and team leader.