Who is this player?
Larry Parrish, third baseman, Montreal Expos
As a major part of the Expos' young attack, Larry Parrish was considered one of the key components as Montreal made a serious challenge for the NL East Championship. Larry had a solid April, batting .307 for the month with a three-homer game against the Atlanta Braves. However, he was hit on the wrist May 3 by the Giants' Ed Whitson and ended up missing more than a month of action. The effects of the injury lingered as Parrish struggled down the stretch, batting .227 with only two home runs in September. The Expos stayed in the race all season, but sadly, were eliminated in the next-to-last day of the season by the eventual world champion Phillies.
A product Haines City, Florida, Larry Parrish went undrafted by a major league club upon his completion of high school in 1971. He enrolled at Seminole Junior College in Sanford, Florida and gained attention from the Expos when he batted .455. Montreal signed him the following year and he began his professional career as an outfielder.
Organizational needs saw Parrish shifted to third base and he was originally hailed for his glove more so than his bat. He was promoted late in the 1974 season and won the third-base job outright in 1975. That first season was a rousing success for Parrish as he batted .274 and drove home 65 runs, establishing himself as a fan favorite.
However, the Expo fans soured on Parrish when he slumped, which was caused primarily due to the team's shift into Olympic Stadium. The pressure and the boo-birds effected his performance and it appeared that his tenure in Montreal would be short. He was making errors in the field at an alarming rate and his bat would go cold for extended periods.
Enter Ozzie Virgil, Sr. Parrish credited the elder Virgil with turning his career around in the Venezuelan League after the 1977 season. Parrish began to hit to all fields instead of pulling the ball and he led the league in home runs and RBI. This culminated in a breakout season in 1979. In making his first All-Star team, he batted .307 and clubbed 30 home runs as the Expos were in serious contention for the first time in club history.
After a disappointing and injury-filled 1980, Parrish and the Expos came up short again in 1981, this time in the NLCS. The Expos began to make changes before the 1982 season and Parrish was traded to the Texas Rangers for veteran Al Oliver. Larry would spend seven seasons in Arlington; first as an outfielder and then primarily as a designated hitter. In his first season in Texas, he tied a major-league record when he crushed three grand slam homers in one week in July, 1982.
Parrish would have some productive seasons as a Ranger, four times driving in 88 or more runs in a season and being named an All-Star for the second time in 1987. He also became one of eight players to hit three homers in a game in both leagues when he repeated his 1980 feat in Texas. By mid-1988, the Rangers' released Larry and he was picked up by the Boston Red Sox for the stretch run. He appeared in the ALCS that year in the Red Sox loss to Oakland, but his fifteen year career as a player was over.
Larry began a second career as a coach and manager, culminating in his appointment at Detroit Tigers' manager in September 1998. He managed the Tigers' final season at historic Tiger Stadium but was reassigned upon the Tigers' selection of Phil Garner as manager. He went on to have many successful seasons as manager of the Toledo Mud Hens and won championships in 2005 and 2006. He returned to the major league level as hitting coach of the Atlanta Braves in 2011.
Today, there is a baseball complex in Haines City, Florida named in his honor.
Why I love this card
Warm-up apparel then is nothing like today. Players nowadays have separate hats, jerseys, everything. To see Parrish in a behind-the-scenes type moment, to me, was unique. It looked like he was warming up in a jacket and a t-shirt. Heck, he could have been going out to rake leaves or trim bushes. Had there not been an Expos logo on his jacket and a Marlboro dangling from his mouth, he looks reminiscent of my Little League coach. Just another subtle thing that made major leaguers more like real people in my ten year old mind.
My son was reading this blog post over my shoulder and there was discussion of the Montreal Expos. Here is a partial transcript
Him: "They're the Washington Nationals now, right?"
Him: "When was that again?"
Him: "That was a long time ago."
Me: "Um, I guess so."
Him: "So they're extinct now...the Expos, right?
Me: "Kind of...they're not in Montreal anymore."
Him: "So they're kinda like the St. Louis Browns?"
Two things. First, I was impressed that he pulled out St. Louis Browns. Second, have the Expos really faded so far into the recesses of memory that they are now considered like the Browns, Seattle Pilots and Washington Senators. God I feel old.
Finally, I share Parrish's 1980 Topps Super Card here and a short video that I found out there in cyberspace.