The best player on the Cincinnati Reds between their 1976 and 1990 World Series victories was right fielder Dave Parker.
The Cincinnati Reds didn’t have many good players between 1977 and 1999 who played for the team that didn’t play on one of the World Series teams. That is the standard that is in use here. Who is the best Red that didn’t play on one of those teams? Or to put it another way, who was the most like perennial NL MVP candidate Joey Votto in the 1980s?
The Cobra, as Parker was called, came over as a free agent in 1983 from the Pittsburgh Pirates. To that date, he was the biggest free agent signing in Reds history and may be to this day. He was a four time All-Star who played in the playoffs with Pittsburgh.
For the Reds he had his best season in 1985, his second with the club. He led the National League in doubles, RBIs, total bases, and intentional walks. He didn’t quite reach Barry Bonds-like numbers, but he was close. In his age 35 year of 1986 he played all 162 games for the only time in his career and once again led the NL in total bases.
In 1985 Parker began to mentor future World Series Champions Eric Davis and Paul O’Neill. O’Neill would eventually replace Parker in right before the Cobra was traded to the Oakland Athletics where he won a World Series in 1989. After winning the NL MVP award in 1978, he never again won the award, finishing second to Willie McGee in 1985.
Beyond what he did on the field for the Cincinnati Reds he was and is again an important part of the city.
Parker grew up in Cincinnati near where Crosley Field once stood and I-75 now passes. Parker attended Courter Technical High School, which has since transitioned to Cincinnati State Community College. He played on the same field as Pete Rose when he played games against one of Courter’s biggest rivals, Western Hills High School.
After his playing days, Parker returned to Cincinnati where he opened Popeye’s Chicken franchises. He divested himself of the businesses in 2012 after owning them for 25 years. Soon afterwards he confirmed that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
In 2014 Parker joined the Reds’ Hall of Fame with fellow local players, Ron Oester and Ken Griffey, Jr. Unfortunately, he never made the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He was part of taking down a cocaine drug dealer in Pittsburgh, which clouded his playing career.
To this day Parker lives in the suburb of Loveland. He still frequents the public golf course near where Courter Tech used to stand. Both as a player and a leader Parker was the best Red between 1977 and 1989.