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The game of baseball was an integral part of Dave Parker's life from a very young age. Growing up in Cincinnati near Crosley Field, the young Parker learned to play baseball in the stadium's parking lot.

By 1973, the big, powerful outfielder was playing inside Major League Baseball stadiums.

Parker’s career started in 1973 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he excelled for over a decade for the Bucs.

During his time in Pittsburgh, Parker pieced together a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration as he won back-to-back National League batting titles in 1977-78. He was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1978 and was a member of the Pirates last World Series championship team in 1979. The Cobra also became Major League Baseball's first million dollar per year player just one year prior to leading the Pirates to the World Series title.

Dave Parker takes a swing in the 1970s at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Dave Parker takes a swing in the 1970s at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Also See: Denny McLain shares joy of meeting fans, signing autographs 

Parker was part of a legendary run of right fielders at Three Rivers Stadium, as he followed in the footsteps of icon Roberto Clemente and Pirates legend Willie Stargell. Parker was a Pirates fan favorite for an entire generation of fans.

After his time in Pittsburgh, Parker played key roles for the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays before retiring in 1991.

“The Cobra” finished his storied career as a seven-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, the 1978 National League MVP, a three-time Gold Glove award winner, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a two-time National League batting champion and a member of the Reds Hall of Fame.

In this exclusive interview, Tony Reid chatted with Parker about signing a MLB baseball card deal, his trophy room of cards, collectibles and memorabilia, following in Clemente and Stargell's footsteps and revolutionizing the salary scale in professional baseball.

When a player is asked for an autograph for the first time it’s a special moment. Do you remember the first time you signed your autograph?

It was in the rookie league. I had just graduated from high school and headed down to Florida. Topps came to visit about a week or so after being there. That’s when I gave out my first autograph. My autograph improved over the years because it wasn’t that nice that first time.

Your rookie card appeared in the 1974 Topps set. Do you remember seeing yourself on a trading card for the first time?

It was exciting to see your face on a card like the major leaguers. I remember seeing the card but it didn’t have any major effect because I was so busy trying to position myself as a baseball player at the time.

1974 Topps Dave Parker rookie card.

1974 Topps Dave Parker rookie card.

Also See: HOF pitcher Bert Blyleven has quite a memorabilia collection

Your first baseball card contract was in 1972 on a minor league deal. Can you put into words what it meant to you and your teammates to have the opportunity to sign a baseball card deal?

It meant a lot because we weren’t making a lot of money at the time. We appreciated getting a little piece of change. It was a thrill to do the first one. It seemed too good to be true at the time.

Speaking of autographs and fans, do you have a memorable fan interaction over the course of your career?

I had a friend who was following me around. I was his favorite player. He was a big corporate executive. He would follow me around and I would see him in different cities. He was a guy that stuck with me all the way up until now.

Do you have a favorite card of your own over the years?

My rookie card. That is the one that I keep every extra one I get. I have a trophy case full of cards. I sit down and sign them on occasion because I want to leave my son something. I sign a lot of cards.

With all of your accomplishments, do you have a room or a man cave where you have memorabilia displayed?

It’s an office. I have big trophy cases that I put all of my stuff in. I have a lot of cards and I take them out sometimes and play with them.

Dave Parker at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in 2014.

Dave Parker at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in 2014.

Also See: Jersey from Mickey's final game, Mantle-McLain matchup coming to auction 

It’s an interesting lineage in Pittsburgh. Roberto Clemente was an icon, and then the great Willie Stargell. You were the next guy in that lineage of great Pittsburgh Pirates players. Can you put into words what it meant to be the guy in Pittsburgh?

It was nice to be mentioned with those two guys. I think everybody wanted me to step into Clemente’s shoes. That wasn’t what I was trying to achieve. I was trying to establish myself as Dave Parker. I had a lot of people that wanted me to be the next Clemente.

Baseball card picture day was a big deal in Spring Training in the 1970s. Can you tell us about the significance from the early years in your career to the later years?

It was a big deal, especially for the minor leaguers and even for the big leaguers. They were passing out checks. Guys were sizing up their cards and seeing how they looked. It was a big photo day.

I’m sure you had the nicest card on the team, right?

I think so.

When you were a young kid did you collect cards or memorabilia? Were there certain players you looked up to?

Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson played for the Reds. I used to go hustle balls that they hit out of the park. I would sell them to fans that were coming to the game. Baseball has been a major part of the life.

If we were to flip over one imaginary trading card that could encapsulate your entire career, what would you want written on the back of your trading card?

The best. That would be it.

You appeared at The National, the largest and most significant sports card and memorabilia show each year. What’s it like signing at that level for huge crowds and thousands of people?

It is fun for me. You try to get to those big shows. You create a market for future cards. I enjoy doing those big shows because it creates more opportunities in the future.

Dave Parker signs a copy of his book, "Cobra," at the 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention.

Dave Parker signs a copy of his book, "Cobra," at the 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention.

The back of your 1982 Donruss Diamond Kings card makes mention that you were one of the first “million dollar” players. How significant was it to secure that contract and what did it mean to be a pioneer and trailblazer in that way?

I take pride in that fact because I revolutionized salary by doing that. The first is always the one that catches the negative stuff that comes along with it. It was great being the first but a lot of baggage came along with it. People didn’t feel like I should receive a million dollars a year for playing baseball. I received a negative response from some Pittsburgh fans as well as fans from other teams. You wouldn’t expect that to come along with the contract, but I got it anyway.

1982 Donruss Dave Parker card.

1982 Donruss Dave Parker card.

Back of 1982 Donruss Dave Parker card.

Back of 1982 Donruss Dave Parker card.

If you could go back to your playing days and do a jersey swap with any player you played against, who would you ask to swap jerseys with?

Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Only the best. 

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