Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Dave Parker Battling Parkinson's Disease

Former Pirates slugger and long-time big leaguer Dave Parker confirmed to Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in February 2012. He had previously only disclosed the news to family and a few friends.

"There's no fear," said Parker. "I've had a great life. I always dreamt of playing baseball, and I played. I'm 62 years old and fortunate to make it to this point. I have some beautiful kids that I got to watch grow up and become adults. My fingerprints are on the baseball industry. I feel good about that. I have nothing to feel bad about."

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disorder with no cure that affects 2 to 4 percent of people over the age of 60. It has not progressed rapidly for Parker, who has tremors in his right hand and sounds sluggish while speaking, according to Starkey. His older sister has a more advanced case of the disease.

To date, Parker has declined to take medication because he is concerned it would worsen his symptoms. He's hoping for what he calls "natural remedies."

"If push comes to shove, I'll take the medicine," he said. "For now, I'm taking it day by day."

Parker, who lives in Ohio with his wife, has six grown children and plans to move to Florida as soon as they can sell their house. He says he plays golf regularly and rides his bike "a minimum of an hour a day" to help maintain a "good weight."

"He looked good," said Pirates director of alumni affairs Joe Billetdeaux, who saw Parker at the team's Heritage Day in May. "He said he has good days and bad days. For the most part, he's dealing with it."

In parts of 19 big-league seasons from 1973-91, Parker hit .290/.339/.471 (121 OPS+) with 339 home runs and seven All-Star Game appearances. He hit .321/.377/.532 (147 OPS+) with an average of 23 homers per year during his heyday with the Pirates from 1975-79. Parker was named the 1978 NL MVP and finished in the top three of the voting on three other occasions.

"Once a Buc, always a Buc," said Parker, who was once the highest-paid athlete in team sports and previously admitted to using cocaine during his final years in Pittsburgh. He follows the current first place Pirates team on a daily basis. "And I'll always be a Buc."


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