SI Vault
Roy Blount
April 09, 1979
Though a play at the plate almost cost Dave Parker half his face, he has lost none of his cheek. He backs up his preposterous words with potent deeds
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April 09, 1979

A Loudmouth And His Loud Bat

Though a play at the plate almost cost Dave Parker half his face, he has lost none of his cheek. He backs up his preposterous words with potent deeds

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Fortunately for the Pirates, Parker plays hard all the time, and sometimes what he plays is almost football. Last June, while trying to score a tying run against the Mets on a short fly to left, he smashed into Catcher John Stearns. "I was on deck," says Stargell, "and when I saw the look in Dave's eyes it was eerie. I saw this wildness, and then it was like an A-bomb."

"John had the ball," recalls Parker, "and he had a satisfied look on his face. My running-back instincts came back. I tried to put my face in his face."

Stearns, who used to play some defensive back, held on to the ball. The left side of Parker's face was flattened, the cheekbone was shattered, blood was jetting from his eye. "The doctors tried to fix it by going through my mouth, but that didn't work, so they had to go in through my nose," Parker says.

But Parker was no sooner out of surgery than he was back in the clubhouse—yelling, "enjoying the atmosphere," with a hugely swollen head. After missing 11 games he returned to the lineup wearing a hockey goalie's mask during batting practice and a football faceguard, which he will continue wearing this season, during games.

"Hey," he says, "I gave this team my cheek. I was pretty before I lost my cheek. And I'm crazy about the guys. For Willie and me both to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs in one year—I'd give up a batting title for that. And a guy like John Milner, he's the solid earth." In the dressing room, however, what Parker tends to bellow to Milner is, "Bleep-bleep, you ain't bleep!"

Sometimes Parker mixes compliments with obloquy, as when he says of Dale Berra, a mild-mannered, defensively adept infielder who happens to be Yogi's son, "Berra, he don't know where we are or what day it is, but he can pick it. Hey, Dale! What time is it? Where are we at?"

"I'm not stupid," says Berra, calmly. There is room in the Pirate clubhouse even for simple dignity.

Parker is usually on the attack, but he takes his share of heat. When he showed up in camp late for spring training, Garner was all over him, waving his finger in his face and yelling, "Here we've been busting our tails for two days and where were you!"

"If I hit like you do," replied Parker, while managing to beam and glower at the same time, "I'd've been here since Christmas!"

"In the clubhouse," says Parker, "it's like I'm talking to my brother, saying, 'I'm bad. Nobody's badder than me.' But away from the guys, I try to say, you know, 'I'm managing.' I was talking that way to an old friend of mine in Cincinnati, and he thought I was insulting him. Said, 'That's not the D.P. I knew.' So, you know, I went back to 'I'm bad.' "

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