CINCINNATI — Chuck Tanner, who was Dave Parker's manager when both were with the Pittsburgh Pirates, says he would defend Parker against the Pirates' allegations that his past use of cocaine affected his baseball performance.
"You're damn right I'll defend him," said Tanner, now manager of the Atlanta Braves. "He played hard every day. I don't know anything about cocaine, but I know he played hurt."
Tanner, saying he recalls Parker as a player who "always gave me the best he had," said he did not perceive Parker's drug use. Parker admitted last year, while testifying in the Pittsburgh federal court trial of alleged drug dealer Curtis Strong, that he had used cocaine while with the Pirates. Strong was later convicted.
Parker, 34, said he used cocaine regularly between 1979 and the end of the 1982 season, and that he ended his use of it partly because it was hurting his on-field performance.
The slugging outfielder, a former two-time National League batting champion, signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds after the 1983 season.
The Pirates announced Monday that they are suing Parker in an effort to block payment of $5.3 million in deferred payments the club owes him under a 1979 contract. The team alleges that Parker breached terms of the five-year contract by failing to reveal his cocaine use.
Tanner told the Cincinnati Post that he isn't convinced that Parker's drug use affected his performance.
"You can't be the Most Valuable Player in the league every year, you know," Tanner said by telephone from Atlanta. "You hit your peak. Just look at Roberto Clemente. He had bad years, and they say he was the greatest player ever to play for Pittsburgh."