February 11th, 2014

39 Days – The Cobra

Dave Parker

In 1978, Dave Parker won his second consecutive National League batting title with a .334 average, finishing with a league-best .979 OPS and 340 total bases. He was named Most Valuable Player and earned his second straight Gold Glove.

Dave ParkerIt all began that April 7 when Parker and the Pirates opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium in front of 39,028 fans, back in the days of the charming pillbox cap. Willie Stargell drove in the only run of the game, John Candelaria, pitched a shutout, and the Pirates were off. Parker doubled and drew the first of his NL-leading 23 intentional walks.

Something special was in the works in Pittsburgh. Those ’78 Pirates would finish 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the National League East, but the next year was the most recent World Series title in Pittsburgh. The Cobra would play a key role that year as well, one of 19 seasons he spent in the Majors (ultimately winning a second ring with Oakland in ’89). He batted .310 for the ’79 champs, and here you can see what kind of cannon he possessed in right field, a reason many considered Parker the best player in the game at that time:

Will the 2014 Pirates take the next step and make a serious bid for their first World Series since that ’79 club? They will open the season March 31 at home against the Cubs — the same city and opponent as it was in ’78 when a big right fielder began establishing himself as one of a kind. These Pirates begin with a reigning NL MVP outfielder of their own in Andrew McCutchen, and after finally returning to the postseason last fall, Clint Hurdle’s Bucs are hoping to take the next step.

Who should be No. 38 in our countdown? Suggest away in the comments below as we keep marking the days on the way to the MLB Opening Series in Sydney, which paves the way for all the openers. See every team’s Spring Training preview on MLB.com, and establish your own routine now as a fan. MLB Schedule | Order Tickets