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While Lance Michael Parrish was once the buff bodyguard to Pop diva Tina Turner, he is better known as a powerhouse catcher for the Detroit Tigers. A slugger through and through, Parrish often had problems making contact with the ball. Despite this, Lance was an instrumental part in the Detroit Tigers' 1984 World Series victory over the San Diego Padres. The Series would prove to be the highlight of his career, as he became a free-agent journeyman after his ten seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

Our tale begins at the Major League Baseball June Draft. Occurring on June 5, 1974, the 74 draft is one of the weakest in MLB history. The Major League teams selected a total of 725 new players, the fewest in draft history. Parrish was the only really good player to come out of the draft. Two years into his Minor League career, Parrish is moved from third base to the catcher position. As a catcher, Lance would find his position on the baseball diamond, however, he was never the best catcher. Lance Parrish owns the dubious record of the most passed balls by a catcher in the 20th century, with 192, or about one every ten games he played in.

When scouts and managers looked at Lance, they didn't see all those passed balls. Instead, they saw the physical specimen that stood in front of them. Lance was big into weight training before it became part of the standard training regimen for ballplayers. Before Detroit's stellar 1984 season, manager Sparky Anderson considered putting all of his players on a training schedule similar to Parrish's so they too could bulk up. Although, one could argue that Parrish put too much into strength training instead of working on his defensive skills, but it's hard to rag on someone who was voted to the All-Star game 8 different times.

Parrish was called up from the Minors near the end of 1977. He saw action in just 12 games, hitting his first home run on August 7, 1977. For the following season, Parrish split time behind the plate with Milt May. During this season, Parrish saw a little under 300 at bats for the season, playing in only 85 games. In the face of so few at bats, two things became evident: Lance could hit the ball far, and Lance can strike out a whole lot. Parrish struck out 71 times during this half season, and hit a respectable 14 home runs.

Before the 1979 season, Parrish set out to try and fix this debacle. He worked closely with Detroit's batting coach. The coach got Parrish to widen his stance and flatten out his swing. These two little changes caused Parrish's batting average to hop up .060 points, which is a large jump in the world of baseball. While Lance still struck out over 100 times, he struck out once per every 5 at bats, instead of once every four. The rest of his stats improved as well with the new stance and the increased playing time.

The biggest improvement in Parrish's hitting would not be seen until the 1982 season. During that season, Parrish used home run friendly Tiger Stadium to his advantage. He smacked out 32 home runs, putting him ahead of Yankee great Yogi Berra for the American League record for most home runs by a catcher in a single season. However, Lance's mark would be surpassed the following year by Boston Red Sox favorite Carlton Fisk (even though he was playing with the Chicago White Sox at the time).

Even though Parrish would no longer have any records to brag about coming into the 1984 season, plenty happened during the year that he could boast. After coming in second in the division in 1983, many thought that the Tigers would have a good year in 1984, they just never expected what they got. The Tigers went an amazing 35-5 during the first 40 games of the season! This mark is the greatest start by any team in MLB history. It was only natural that the team, packed with stars like Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, not to mention Parrish himself, would go on to win 104 games on the season. The 1984 Tigers lead their division from the first game of the season to the last, the first team to do so since the 1955 Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the playoffs that year, the Tigers faced off against the Kansas City Royals, led by Bret Saberhagen and perennial Royal, George Brett. The Royals did not stand a chance against the sweet pitching and power hitting of the Tigers and were swept in the American League Championship Series. Hot off the sweep, the Tigers took on the San Diego Padres and hitting legend Tony Gwynn. The Padres never stood a chance against the red hot, dominating Detroit Tigers. The Tigers won the World Series, 4 games to 1.

From here, not only the Tigers, but Parrish's career, started to go down the proverbial tubes. His back started aggravating him in the 1985 season, yet he was still able to produce numbers like he used to. However, in the following season, Parrish played in less than 100 games for the third time during his Major League career. 1986 would also be the end of Lance Parrish the Tiger, and the beginning of Lance Parrish the journeyman. A free agent after that season, Parrish unwittingly became part of a large group of free agent with no real place to go. The owners did not want to pay the rising prices for many of the free agent stars, which included greats like Gary Gaetti and Awesome Andre Dawson. The lack of interest in all these great players led to the Players' Association's first anti-collusion suit against the owners.

Parrish found himself signed by the Philidelphia Phillies. However, Parrish would never fully adjust to the differences between AL and NL ball. Parrish struggled at the plate, hitting home runs in the teens and his batting average was less than .250! This means that Parrish would get a hit in every four at bats. This would not be so bad if he kept putting up his high power numbers, like other power hitters in the 80's.

After two lackluster seasons in the city of good cheese steak subs, Lance Parrish was traded to the California Angels for a minor leaguer! Ouch! However, this did not dishearten him. After another poor season in 1989, he turned it up a few notches in 1990. In the first season of the new decade, Parrish regained his power stroke. It would be the last season that Parrish would hit over 20 home runs (he hit 24). It would also be the last season that Parrish would be elected by the fans to the All-Star game.

1990 would be Parrish's last great season. In the seasons afterwards, he struggled at the plate, and with his back, as he traveled from American League town to American League town. In 1992, Lance was traded to the Seattle Mariners. He then played for the Cleveland Indians, then for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1994. He finished out his career north of the border, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. Recently, Parrish rejoined the Tigers as their bullpen coach, and held that job from 2003-2005. He lost the job when Alan Trammell was fired as manager after the 2005 season.

Lance Parrish was the prototype for the 1980's power hitter. Above average power numbers, lots of strikeouts and a mediocre batting average mark his career. Yet, one cannot take away the important role Parrish played in the Tigers' remarkable 1984 season. Not to mention the role he played in bringing weight training and a lifting regiment to Major League Baseball, nor the 8 All-Star games and the three Gold Gloves. Parrish might not have been the greatest catcher of all time, but he was one of the best in the 80's, and an important part of a great Detroit Tigers team.

Statistics:

Position: Catcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 220 lbs

MLB Debut: September 5, 1977
Born: June 15, 1956 in Clairton, PA

Awards:
All-Star: 1980, 82-6, 88, 1990
Gold Glove: 83-85
Seasonal Batting Statistics:
Year Tm Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG TB 1977 DET AL 12 46 10 9 2 0 3 7 0 0 5 12 .196 .275 .435 20 1978 DET AL 85 288 37 63 11 3 14 41 0 0 11 71 .219 .254 .424 122 1979 DET AL 143 493 65 136 26 3 19 65 6 7 49 105 .276 .343 .456 225 1980 DET AL 144 553 79 158 34 6 24 82 6 4 31 109 .286 .325 .499 276 1981 DET AL 96 348 39 85 18 2 10 46 2 3 34 52 .244 .311 .394 137 1982 DET AL 133 486 75 138 19 2 32 87 3 4 40 99 .284 .338 .529 257 1983 DET AL 155 605 80 163 42 3 27 114 1 3 44 106 .269 .314 .483 292 1984 DET AL 147 578 75 137 16 2 33 98 2 3 41 120 .237 .287 .443 256 1985 DET AL 140 549 64 150 27 1 28 98 2 6 41 90 .273 .323 .479 263 1986 DET AL 91 327 53 84 6 1 22 62 0 0 38 83 .257 .340 .483 158 1987 PHI NL 130 466 42 114 21 0 17 67 0 1 47 104 .245 .313 .399 186 1988 PHI NL 123 424 44 91 17 2 15 60 0 0 47 93 .215 .293 .370 157 1989 CAL AL 124 433 48 103 12 1 17 50 1 1 42 104 .238 .306 .388 168 1990 CAL AL 133 470 54 126 14 0 24 70 2 2 46 107 .268 .338 .451 212 1991 CAL AL 119 402 38 87 12 0 19 51 0 1 35 117 .216 .285 .388 156 1992 CAL AL 24 83 7 19 2 0 4 11 0 0 5 22 .229 .270 .398 33 SEA AL 69 192 19 45 11 1 8 21 1 1 19 48 .234 .304 .427 82 1993 CLE AL 10 20 2 4 1 0 1 2 1 0 4 5 .200 .333 .400 8 1994 PIT NL 40 126 10 34 5 0 3 16 1 1 18 28 .270 .363 .381 48 1995 TOR AL 70 178 15 36 9 0 4 22 0 0 15 52 .202 .265 .320 57 19 Seasons 1988 7067 856 1782 305 27 324 1070 28 37 6121527 .252 .313 .440 3113
Postseason Batting:
Year Round Tm Opp WLser G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG 1984 ALCS DET KCR W 3 12 1 3 1 0 1 3 0 3 .250 .231 .583 WS DET SDP W 5 18 3 5 1 0 1 2 3 2 .278 .364 .500 Playoff Totals: 2-0 8 30 4 8 2 0 2 5 3 5 .267 .314 .533

Lance Parrish - http://www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/parrishlance/
Lance Parrish Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com - www.baseball-reference.com/p/parrila02.shtml
Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers - Lance Parrish - http://members.tripod.com/bb_catchers/catchers/parrish.htm
Larry Parrish : BaseballLibrary.com - http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/P/Parrish_Larry.stm
and my 1987 Topps Lance Parrish Baseball card. Thanks to K and avalyn for their help.

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