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This May, after a poor start, Templeton, 25, became disenchanted when he was dropped from the leadoff spot in the lineup. He was unhappy when his friend Tony Scott was benched and later traded. Just before the strike, Templeton said he was too tired to play day games after night games, but when play resumed, he gave his all for a week. Then he started complaining of knee and ankle injuries, and he slept through a doctor's appointment. Tenace, who was ready to throttle Templeton before the strike, was impressed when he came back. Says Tenace, "He played unbelievably. We said, 'Hey, look at Tempy.' Then all of a sudden, he just went south."
In the past, when Templeton went that away, his agent, Richie Bry, usually issued a written apology. Herzog would have none of that this time. "I want the boy to talk from his heart and tell the people he's going to come back here and bust his butt every day," said Herzog. There is one hopeful sign: Team physician Stan London said Templeton had been "very receptive, almost anxious" to receive psychiatric care. His first evaluation was last Friday, and he was scheduled to be hospitalized on Monday.
In the meantime, many in St. Louis were saying good riddance. A columnist called Templeton a spoiled child, and one headline read CARDS WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT TEMPLETON. But he does have friends. Ivan McKinney, a high school principal in Santa Ana, Calif., who's known Templeton for many years, said, "I'm not all that surprised, but I'm very disappointed. I'm sick to my stomach about this. Something has got to be wrong. This isn't the young man I knew." McKinney thinks the fact that Templeton's father, Spiavia, who played in the Negro Leagues, is ill, might have something to do with the pressures Templeton is evidently feeling. Jerry Mumphrey, once Templeton's teammate on the Cardinals and now Jackson's teammate on the Yankees, said, "Tempy reacts without thinking of the consequences. Some of the things he's done have been out of frustration. He needs a vote of confidence from everybody."
Things were only a little better last week at Three Rivers Stadium, where Pirate patriarch Willie Stargell hollered to Parker, "We ought to fill this stadium up and then let you go through the stands and whip everybody's ass."
"Yeah," snarled Parker, "and I'd feel a lot better." Indeed, Parker, who led the National League in hitting in 1977 and 1978, could be no deeper in the pits. For a guy who boasts he was the first million-dollar-a-year man (he is in the third year of his $6.7 million, five-year contract), he's not playing up to his bank account, according to the fans, and they are booing him unmercifully.
Says teammate Bill Madlock, "So he makes $1 million. Other guys on the team are making $700,000, $800,000, and they don't get treated like he does." True. Ever since Parker signed his contract, before the start of the 1979 season, he has been the target not only of verbal abuse but also of all manner of objects thrown at him from the stands—not in appreciation but in anger—including a small battery, a bat, a bag of bolts and bullets.
In a recent KDKA radio poll of fans, 43 wanted the Pirates to keep him, 42 said trade him. If he's traded—and club Executive Vice-President Pete Peterson says he guesses that "it's getting closer to the point where he wants to be traded"—the fans can take a large measure of the credit, or blame.
Last week in a game against the Dodgers, one in which Parker dropped a fly-ball after making a good, strong run for it, he was at bat in the bottom of the ninth. The Pirates were down by three, with two outs, two on and two strikes on Parker. Playing with an aching and swollen right thumb, he hit a homer to tie the game. The scoreboard flashed TERRIFIC. But the Dodgers went ahead again, and in the bottom of the 11th, with two out and nobody on, Parker came up again. He grounded out to second to end the game—and was booed.
The problem is that Parker talks too much, and too acerbically. He spouts off and tries to intimidate everyone, yet Stargell maintains, "If you could look inside his chest, you'd see a big ol' valentine. But if you look inside his mouth, you see a case of TNT." Parker's demeanor generally comes across as surly. Once, last year, he refused even to tip his cap to fans applauding him for hitting two homers in a game.
Worse, the 6'5" Parker, who, because of the injured thumb, missed five games last week, is fat. He says he isn't, but to those who sit and stare, he looks it. He insists he's only 240, but he won't get on a scale. Whether he is overweight or not, Peterson has talked to him about it. The fans think his weight might be one reason that he's not playing up to their expectations.