Dave Parker fondly remembers his 'wide world' of ABC Sports, meeting H st. louis cardinals mlb jersey 59 oward Cosell
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Sports. It’s the diversion of our lives. For some of us, it gets us through the night. I know things are weird right now, but let me tell you something: I’m no different. I get up in the morning and turn on ESPN and I watch sports all day. When I’m home, I’ve eaten dinner with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon yelling at me from the TV for the last 10-15 years. College Hoops, MLB, I even plan my Saturday afternoons around rooting on my Ohio State boys. Hearing Keith Jackson’s voice during all those college football seasons through the years always reminded me of my high school days — and Hawaii, and I’ll tell you why.
I woke up in a five-star hotel room in Honolulu on an early, sunny day in January 1980. I walked out onto the balcony, through the morning breeze and the swaying of the palm trees, with only one thing on my mind: ABC Sports.
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As a child, I’d spend my Saturdays in pee wee football or Knothole baseball, what we Ohio people call Little League. We’d get home in the afternoon. Mama would make me and my brothers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then we’d join Daddy in the den to watch some TV. Cassius Clay and his outspokenness made an impression on young me. He could do anything, he could say anything. He was The Champ, man. He made me believDooney & Bourke e my dreams were reasonable. Hell, I could change my name if I wanted to. That’s what ABC Sports showed me. And the man he was always talking to was Howard Cosell. If ol’ Howard was all up in your face, you were somebody. You were special. It didn’t matter if he was praising or intellectually razzing you. If that ABC mic was in front of your lips, you were relevant. It was possible that anything and everything was on the table for me in life, and ABC Sports delivered that lesson. While some of y’all had “Free to be You and Me,” I h st louis cardinals mlb jersey kim ad Cosell and Ali.
The network supported The Champ through his stance of rejecting his draft notice, which led to the stripping of his heavyweight boxing crown. Cosell continued to publicly engage Ali, provide him a forum to tell his side of things, but in 1968 Howard also spoke out for the rights of Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos. I was 17 and preparing for my junior year football season when I watched these great men act, not in defiance but in courage and support for the black community.
The actions of Smith and Car Gerrit Cole Yankees Jerseys los showed me that, like Ali, the black athlete could speak their mind, regardless of the consequences.
Now football, as many of you know, has always been my first love. And if it wasn’t for a critical in st louis cardinals jersey 50 jury during the opening game of my senior year in high school, I would’ve most certainly gone on to be an NCAA D-1 tailback. I was in a real bad place during the winter of 1970. I underwent two surgeries on my knee and I couldn’t play baseball for my school, which affected my MLB draft status. I laid on my couch in the early spring that year, wondering where my life was going. Chris Schenkel was a broadcaster for ABC around this time. Some of you might remember that one of the most popular sports on television in 1970 was, of all things, bowling. You can look it up that bowling probably drew higher ratings than college football games — certainly college basketball, which was something that became more popular as a televised sport later in the decade, but if you were at home during the late winter-early spring, the Professional Bowlers Tour was probably the only sports on TV. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t pivot, I couldn’t dive. I felt like a cripple. I spent that day trying to figure it all out, not an easy thing for a 17-year-old. Watching those men roll that heavy ball down the lanes, I was impressed at the skill in bowling a 300 perfect game. I respected that.
I watched the Firestone Tournament of Champions. The winner took home $25,000. I couldn’t believe it — $25K to go bowling! I thought to myself that with some practice, maybe I could compete. I held my own in every other sport — why not bowling? If you didn’t change the channel, you would hear Jim McKay’s voice and you knew it was time for “Wide World of Sports.”
They always had skiing on. I knew that wasn’t for me, but it sure looked cool. I imagined myself spanning the globe, traveling to all these exotic locations. Much like the opening of that legendary Saturday afternoon show, my high school life was the constant variety of sport, but with my injuries, I was staring the agony of defeat right in the face. The love and support of my family and ABC Sports gave me the strength to push through my blues and get my heart and my mind right.
I managed to heal and was ultimately drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round in June 1970. I had a great season at Rookie League and returned home for a few weeks before taking part in the Buccos’ Instructional League program down in Florida. I spent as much time with my folks and siblings as possible before heading down to my adopted baseball family at Pirate City, and during this time I learned about a new program on Monday nights.
The first game would offer t Stephen Strasburg Nationals Jerseys he New York Jets, with the most popular player in the league, Joe Namath, at QB against my beloved Cleveland Browns and their star running back, Leroy Kelly. I had dreams of being Kelly’s home-state heir apparent, just like how he replaced my football idol, Jim Brown. And for those moments watching that game at home with my dad, ABC Sports once again brought us together, recalling my great moments on the high school football field and most importantly, envisioning my daddy watching me play.
Over the years, I wouldn’t catch much “Monday Night Football” because of winter baseball obligations, but that doesn’t mean ABC Sports was far from my mind. Arriving at ballparks through the minor leagues in the afternoons a few hours ahead of Saturday evening games, some clubhouses came equipped with TVs. And as I dressed for my sport, Jim McKay’s words and that bombastic soundtrack were my battle cry. I would glance at the television and maybe catch some gymnastics, bull-riding, Summer Olympic boxing. Me and the fellas used to laugh while watching Evel Knievel make all those crazy jumps on his motorcycle.
I hung out with Knievel once after an event in Cincinnati. Quirky cat, but the man had some stones to do all that he did. After I became a major leaguer for good with the Pirates in 1973, Saturday afternoon always involved ABC Sports. Before a night game or a quick-pitched nine innings, me and the boys would be at our lockers in the clubhouse at Three Rivers or on the road while auto racing played on the TV. I can almost hear that Scottish dude now — Jackie St st. louis cardinals mlb jersey amazon ewart, the color commentator for racing. Watching a clip of him today brings me right back to being with the fellas — post-game beers with Willie Stargell, Dock Ellis and Larry Demery, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett, my manager Danny Murtaugh. Jackie Stewart’s voice is like a damn portal to my past, a glorious Miller Time gone by.
When ABC Sports started airing baseball on Monday nights, the first thing I said to myself was “When am I gonna get to meet Howard?” 1976 and I’m still dreaming just like you, hoping maybe one day I’d have a clever back-and-forth with the great Cosell, just like Ali. The Pirates played on “Monday Night Baseball” four times in ’76. Howard wasn’t in the building, but I got to be a part of an ABC Sports history moment when my teammate, John Candelaria, threw a no-hitter on national television. It was Candy’s night, and I was thrilled to bear direct witness.
Still wanted to hang out with Howard, though. That day was almost there.
It was the following spring training, 1977. Cosell had come down to Florida to interview players. I was coolin’ out with Demery on the back fields at Pirate City toward the end of a workout when he approached us. The man I watched as a child slowly walking our way. I didn’t show it, but I was giddy as all get out.
“Dave Parker,” Cosell said in that nasally, deliberate voice that we all remember, “The Cobra. May I have a word with you?” I can hardly remember any of the topics we discussed, and bucket lists didn’t exist in the ‘70s, but if they did, this was a real big one for me. The Pirates appeared a bunch of times on “Monday Night Baseball” in ’77. I never heard Cosell say my name, but seeing that network banner logo on the sidelines of Three Rivers and other stadiums reminded me that I made it as a black professional athlete in MLB WatchesAmerica. Howard and I would speak every so often over the next few years, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not, but this relationship, and the relationship with ABC Sports, made it so special to me.
I left my hotel room in Hawaii that morning, three years later in 1980, got on the elevator feeling energized by all those memories. If y’all have been wondering why a cat in a fancy Honolulu resort would be daydreaming about television, well, when the elevator doors opened, the answer was right in front of me.
Frank Gifford, Reggie Jackson and Jim Palme st louis cardinals world series jersey r were in the lobby, along with a whole camera crew from the network. We were all about to film a segment of “The Superstars,” a popular ABC Sports Saturday show during the ‘70s and early ‘80s. This was my second time appearing on the Superstars, when I tackled The Penguin, Ron Cey, for the Obstacle Course championship back in ’78.
Being featured on ABC Sports the second time brought me just as many chills as the first. In life, being given something you love never subsides, and seeing the ABC Sports logo on that microphone under my chin was a thrill of personal victory that never went dull.
Dave Parker was a seven-time MLB All-Star, two-time batting chaNoah Syndergaard Phillies Jerseys mpion, the 1978 NL MVP and a World Series champion with the 1979 Pirates and 1989 A's. He retired in 1991 after playing parts of 19 seasons in the majors. Parker now volunteers his time at the Cincinnati Reds Urban Youth Academy near his home in Ohio. His book, "Cobra: Dave Parker and the Boys at the Peak of Black Baseball," will be released through University of Nebraska Press in spring 2021.