- C, 1B, DH, LF, OF, RF
- Big Wheel
- June 15, 1956
- 6' 3"
- 210 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-05-1977 with DET
- Allstar Selections:
- 1980 SS, 1982 SS, 1983 GG, 1983 SS, 1984 GG, 1984 SS, 1985 GG, 1986 SS, 1990 SS
A onetime bodyguard for singer Tina Turner, Parrish was the Tigers' sturdy catcher for nine years, and made the AL All-Star squad six times. He was converted from third base to catcher in his second year in the minors, and as a rookie in 1978 he platooned with Milt May in Detroit. Playing full-time in 1979, Parrish hit .276 with 19 HR and 65 RBI, but was struggling defensively. Lance Parrish was the finest all-around catcher in the American League in the early and mid-1980s winning three straight Gold Gloves (1983-85).
He broke Yogi Berra's AL record for HR by a catcher with 32 (Carlton Fisk broke his record the following year) and in the 1982 All-Star Game he established a record when he gunned down three National League speedsters on the base paths.
He had tremendous power, but poor strike-zone judgment. He was a slow runner and hit into many double plays, but was a near-perfect physical specimen due to his weight-lifting regimen. Back problems plagued him in 1985-86, and in 1987 he signed with the Phillies as a free agent. He never adjusted to the NL, however, and after two subpar seasons he began 1989 as Bob Boone's successor with the Angels.
Major League career
Parrish was drafted as a third baseman by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 1974 Major League Baseball draft. While playing for the Lakeland Tigers in the minor leagues, he was converted to a catcher. He reached the major leagues in 1977 on a part time basis, and by 1979 he had replaced Milt May as the team's regular catcher. In 1979, he also played winter baseball in Puerto Rico with the Mayaguez Indians. Parrish hit for a .286 batting average along with 24 home runs and 82 runs batted in during the 1980 season to earn his first American League All-Star team berth, as well as winning his first Silver Slugger Award.
Parrish's most productive offensive season was 1982 when he posted a .284 batting average with 32 home runs and 87 runs batted in, winning another Silver Slugger Award in the process. He followed that in 1983 with 27 home runs and 114 runs batted in, earning his third Silver Slugger Award, as well as winning his first Gold Glove Award. Parrish was an integral member of the world championship-winning 1984 Detroit Tigers team. Batting as the clean-up hitter, he produced 33 home runs and 98 runs batted in, adding another Silver Slugger Award as well as a second Gold Glove Award to his credentials. He also caught Jack Morris' no-hitter on April 7 of that season. The Tigers led the American League Eastern Division season from start to finish, then defeated the Kansas City Royals in the 1984 American League Championship Series, before winning the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres.
On Friday the 13th (April 13, 1984), Lance Parrish - wearing #13 - scored the 13th run in Detroit's 13-9 victory over Boston.
After ten years with the Tigers, Parrish signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent before the 1987 season. The Phillies made their slogan for the season "Lance us a Pennant." He quickly fell out of favor with the Philadelphia fans and media in his second season there as a result of poor offensive output, ranking near the bottom of full time major league players in 1988 with a .215 batting average. Afterwards, he played three seasons and parts of a fourth with the California Angels before ending his career with short stints for the Mariners, Indians, Pirates and Blue Jays. Parrish was also with the Los Angeles Dodgers in spring training 1993, but he failed to make the squad as rookie Mike Piazza's performance showed the club that Piazza was ready to be a starting major-league catcher. Parrish also signed to return to the Tigers in 1994, but his contract was purchased by the Pirates before he ever got back to the majors with Detroit. He signed with the Royals in 1995 but was traded to Toronto before he appeared in any major league games with Kansas City. He signed once again with Pittsburgh in 1996, but did not make the team.
In a 19 year career, Parrish played in 1988 games, accumulating 1782 hits in 7067 at bats for a .252 career batting average along with 324 home runs and 1070 runs batted in. Parrish was an eight-time All-Star (1980, 1982–86, 1988, 1990), and he won three Gold Glove Awards (1983–85). Parish was a six-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award which is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position. In 1982, he established the American League record for home runs by a catcher (32), surpassing the previous mark set by Yogi Berra and Gus Triandos, then surpassed his own mark two years later with 33. Parrish ranks fifth in Major League history in home runs as a catcher with 299, 10th among catchers in total bases with 3113, and 11th in runs batted in with 1070. He led American League catchers twice in baserunners caught stealing, once in assists and once in caught stealing percentage. Parrish finished second in fielding percentage four times and ended his career with a .991 fielding percentage.
After retiring he became a roving catching instructor for the Kansas City Royals during the 1996 season. From 1997-98, he was a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers Double-A team, the San Antonio Missions. From 1999 to 2001 he was part of the Detroit Tigers major league coaching staff as a third-base coach, bullpen coach and bench coach.
Parrish spent the 2002 season as a broadcaster, working as the color commentator for Tigers games on Detroit's WKBD station. The following season, he returned to the Tigers dugout when former teammate Alan Trammell became the manager of the Tigers. Parrish remained on Trammell's staff through the 2005 season when they were both dismissed.
He became a minor league Manager with the Ogden Raptors, the Dodgers rookie level team, for the 2006 season. The team finished 37-39. On November 20, 2006 he was hired to manage the Great Lakes Loons in Single-A ball during their debut season. His contract was not renewed following the season.
Parrish has two sons in professional baseball. His oldest son, David Parrish, was selected in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft by the New York Yankees, and is now playing in the Texas Rangers organization. He also has a daughter, Ashley Parrish Hunt, who resides in Northwest Ohio.
Parris vs. Rickey and two historical steals
Parrish was behind the plate on April 28, 1991, for the Angels, when Rickey Henderson stole his 938th base, tying Lou Brock for the all-time mark. In 1982, Parrish was at home with his wife awaiting the birth of their first child when Henerson stole his 117th base, coming within one of Brock's single-season record. When he tried to steal third to tie the record, Henderson was thrown out by Bill Fahey, Parrish's replacement. Prior to the steal attempts, Oakland's Fred Stanley had been picked off second, setting up the opportunity for Henderson to set the mark at home. Tiger manager Sparky Anderson was incensed at Stanley's move. "All honor has left this game if Stanley isn't fined the highest figure ever. If he isn't, there is no commissioner of baseball," Sparky said. "He's discredited this game and he is totally unforgivable. I don't even want to hear what he has to say."
Not Helping Reggie
In an article written for Sports Illustrated in September of 2006, Tom Verduci related an incident involving Lance Parrish and Reggie Jackson:
[Jackson] was in the midst of such a horrific strikeout streak that he pleaded to Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish, "Tell me what's coming, and I promise I'll take a turn right back into the dugout no matter where I hit it. I just want to look like a pro a little bit." (Parrish replied, "F--- you"; Jackson, to his immense satisfaction, grounded out.)
Parrish was not signed as a free agent in the off-season of 1986 because Detroit (and several other clubs, it turned out later) were refusing to spend big money on the open market. He was let go to the Phillies in a move that was very unpopular with Tiger fans. The failure to stay in Detroit hurt both the Tigers and Parrish in the long run. Parrish struggled in Philadelphia, never really adapting to National League ball. The Tigers filled his spot with Matt Nokes for a few years but never regained the consistent leadership and power from the catcher spot until Mickey Tettleton arrived in 1991. Had Parrish stayed in Detroit he may have finished his career as a Tiger and hit far more home runs in friendly Tiger Stadium, ultimately helping his Hall of Fame chances. Instead, he will likely remain on the outside and watch Gary Carter enter the Hall of Fame - a contemporary with similar skills.
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