I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#15 Catcher Lance Parrish
Lance Parrish AKA The Big Wheel. To be perfectly honest he should be higher up the list but the way he left the team as a player, the two times he was let go by the organization as a coach has left a bad taste in the mouth. Parish was the first defection of the 1984 team,…the first guy to leave as a free agent and when you are a kid you just don’t know that baseball is a business for the owners and for the players…you just want your guys to play for your team forever. When Lance left I felt very betrayed…I wasn’t use to my guys leaving…it was made worse because I spent my summers in Indiana, which is Chicago Cubs country, so I had to see Lance playing for the Philadelphia Phillies…and it made me mad. In a lot of ways Mr. Parrish help steal away part of my baseball innocence.
The Detroit Tigers had Matt Nokes who was ready for promotion to the big leagues, and they traded for Mike Heath in September of 1986 so there was no way Lance was coming back. Even though he deserved to get paid…we can effectively argue that Lance was one of the best catchers of the 1980’s and for a few years run he may have been the best catcher in all of baseball. Its a tough call a beloved player being replaced by younger cheaper talent. Now that I have seen this play out over and over and in multiple sports I am not as sensitive to it. Lance will always be the first guy they started teaching me this lesson and we never forgot our first.
In 1983 and 1984 Lance was an All Star catcher and won Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at his position. In 1982 he was an all star and won a Silver Slugger. In 1986 we was an All Star for the fifth consecutive time and won a Golden Glove…after leaving the Tigers he would twice more be selected to the All Star Game. In all we are talking about someone who was an 8 time all star, won 3 golden gloves, and 6 Silver Slugger awards. This is where we start to see the discrimination in the Hall of Fame vote against the 1984 Tigers…Lance might not have been a totally legit Hall of Fame candidate but his 1.7% of the vote in 2001 was a disgrace.
It is a little hard to pinpoint his best season wearing the Old English D…from 1982 to 1985 he hit more than 25 home runs each season eclipsing 30 twice…in the same time span he drove in more than 85 runs every year eclipsing 100 once and having 98 twice. Of course with big power comes a lot of strike outs…and he had more than 100 whiffs many times through out his career. However given his skills behind the plate and at the plate he is truly one of the greatest Tigers of all time. It is a complete travesty that the team has not retired his #13…Not to mention he has been fired twice from the Tigers coaching staff.
The Tigers did bring him back into the fold as Lance was named Manager of the Double A Erie Sea Wolves in 2014 and had him coach in the Arizona Fall League.