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LANCE PARRISH : He'd Like to See Philadelphia Story Play One More Time in Anaheim

March 19, 1989|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

PALM SPRINGS — In Philadelphia, they'd had their fill of the veteran catcher.

A former Gold Glove winner, he could no longer throw out base-stealers, they said.

A former All-Star game starter, he could no longer play every day, they said.

A former World Series champion, his batting average had plunged into the .210s, and the Phillies had plunged to the depths of the National League East.

A welcome had been worn out and a change had to be made. By the time the booing had subsided at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies had shipped their veteran catcher to the Angels, who were trying to recover from a dismal season of their own.

The catcher's name?

Bob Boone.

Or Lance Parrish.

Yes, even in baseball, history repeats itself.

This is one Philadelphia story the Angels would like to reprise. The basic plot line: Washed-up Phillie catcher finds second wind in Anaheim, regains All-Star form and wins many more Gold Gloves. Seven years pass, and they still can't pry him from the starting lineup.

In 1982, at 34, Bob Boone made his debut for the Angels. Two years removed from a World Series title, he was one year removed from a .211 batting average, which prompted his removal from Philadelphia.

In 1982, Boone helped the Angels reach the American League playoffs and won another Gold Glove, his first of four as an Angel.

Flash ahead to 1989 and you'll find Lance Parrish, at 32, trying to follow in Boone's footsteps. He, too, is a few years removed from a World Series championship, with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. He, too, is coming off a poor offensive season, having hit .215 in his final year as a Phillie.

Following Boone the rest of the way, of course, is the great if for Parrish.

Who can realistically expect lightning to strike twice behind home plate?

In Anaheim?

As it was, Parrish may have followed Boone a little too closely last winter. The two catchers happen to be good friends--"We've worked out together the last few years," Parrish says--but two catchers on the same team means one has to sit while the other squats.

And Boone, having batted a career-high .295 en route to winning his third consecutive Gold Glove, believed he had squatter's rights. When the Angels traded minor league pitcher David Holdridge for Parrish last October, and were willing to pay Parrish about $500,000 more a season than Boone, the incumbent took the hint and high-tailed it to Kansas City.

Parrish didn't blame him.

"I wasn't surprised," Parrish said. "I don't think Bob really appreciated the way the ballclub had dealt with him, at least as far as his contract was concerned.

"He caught a majority of the games for them and did a good job at it and always had to fight in the wintertime to get the kind of contract he wanted.

" . . . He looked at it with a realistic approach. The Angels had kind of been taking the hard line in their dealings with him and then they sign me the day after the season. He's just had his most productive offensive season and won a Gold Glove--and they sign me for more than he was making."

So this is how Parrish comes to the Angels. The man who drove Bob Boone out of Anaheim.

Now, if Parrish can drive in a few runs . . .

Parrish hated Philadelphia. That was probably because the feeling was fairly mutual.

Beware the supposed savior who shows up in burgundy pinstripes, doesn't provide immediate deliverance and still expects a show of brotherly love. Especially if he made his reputation in the sub-par circuit, the American League.

Von Hayes. Glenn Wilson. Phil Bradley. All have crossed league lines in recent years, all have faltered, all have felt the infamous Veterans Stadium fallout.

But few Phillies have been booed as loudly, and as roundly, as Parrish. For one thing, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he was a big target. For another, he was an easy one, a six-time All-Star catcher with Detroit who averaged 28 home runs and 92 runs batted in from 1982-1986--and then proceeded to hit .245 and .215 after signing for free-agent millions with Philadelphia in 1987.

"The Philly fans were on me the whole time," Parrish said. "Everybody expected me to be the missing ingredient to make us a championship ballclub."

And to make matters worse, Parrish said, his family was drawn into the issue.

"What really got me upset was some guy mouthing off to my wife in front of our kids (at a game). And this was one week into the season, my first season. There's no call for that."

As big league catchers go, Parrish is uncommonly sensitive, quiet in the clubhouse and introspective in interviews. After years of adulation in Tiger-crazy Detroit, such fan abuse was emotionally crushing.

"Lance is pretty much family-oriented," said Angel pitcher Dan Petry, a former Detroit teammate of Parrish. "When he struggled a little, it wasn't real easy on his family. And I know that bothered him."

Parrish tried to strike back on the field, viewing every at-bat and every throw to second base as potential redemption.

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