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Lance Parrish has long been hooked on the sports collectible hobby.

He’s collected a variety of items from his playing, coaching and managerial days, and has used collectibles to raise funds for various causes, including his son’s amateur baseball programs.

“When I was playing and coaching and my kids were growing up — and I think every player goes through this when their kids are old enough — my boys were high school and college players, and I got involved raising funds for the [school baseball] programs,” Parrish said. “There are so many golf tournaments, memorabilia auctions and other events [with celebrities], so I would run around, take it upon myself to get guys to sign baseballs, bats, etc., so we could auction those items to help raise funds for the baseball programs.

“Looking back, I wish I had kept some of that stuff because I had some cool [memorabilia]. But it all went to a worthy cause, so that’s most important.”

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Parrish, who will be signing autographs at The National in Atlantic City, does still have some prized autographs in his collection from various players he played with or played against over the years. Most are now stored away in boxes. The highlights, he said, are signed baseballs from all-star teams that he played on or against.

Baseball signed by Lance Parrish and his Detroit Tigers teammates from the 1984 World Series team.

Baseball signed by Lance Parrish and his Detroit Tigers teammates from the 1984 World Series team.

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He also cherishes photos from his career. He has a variety of action photos — Parrish positioned behind the plate with batters like Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., and others.

Parrish also has a photo from the 1980s, taken on an all-star tour in Japan. Parrish was the catcher; Pete Rose was batting.

“It’s nice to look back, see the people who I have been on the field with and against. It’s great having those pictures in time, those memories, those moments,” said Parrish, who broke into the majors at the end of the 1977 season with Detroit. He ended his big-league career after the 1995 season. His 19-year major league career spanned 1,988 games, with 1,782 hits in 7,067 at-bats for a .252 career batting average. He drilled 324 career home runs and had 1,070 RBIs. He was an eight-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and has six Silver Sluggers awarded to the best offensive player at each position.

In 1982, he established an American League record for home runs in a season by a catcher (32), surpassing the previous mark set by Yogi Berra and Gus Triandos. He beat his own mark two years later with 33.

Lance Parrish bats during a 1980 game at Tiger Stadium. Parrish slugged 324 career home runs.

Lance Parrish bats during a 1980 game at Tiger Stadium. Parrish slugged 324 career home runs.

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Parrish is tied with Gary Carter for fifth in major league history for home runs as a catcher (324 overall, 299 as a catcher, one more than Carter).

“I was fortunate … I was able to achieve some great things,” Parrish said. “You want to make it to the major leagues, but do you? And if you do make it to the majors, how long will you stay? Some great players only play a year or two, for whatever reason. I was able to play almost 20 years in the majors, so I’m extremely fortunate. During that time, I not only played with some great players, but I also played against some great players.

“From the day I broke into the majors until the day I left, it was kind of a Who’s Who list in baseball. There were some great New York Yankee teams that I faced, with Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry and so many other greats. Baltimore with Earl Weaver, Cal Ripken Jr., and Eddie Murray. Then there was George Brett and his crew in Kansas City.

“There were so many great players who I played against, so many Hall of Famers, such as Robin Yount, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and others. When I think back, it was some great memories, whether they were teammates or opponents.”

WORLD SERIES MEMORIES

No memory for Parrish is stronger than 1984, when Detroit needed only five games to topple the San Diego Padres for the World Series championship. The ’84 Tigers opened the season 35-5 and finished the regular season with 104 wins. They led the American League East wire to wire, anchored around the starting pitching of Jack Morris and others and the relief pitching of Willie Hernández, who won the Cy Young Award and the American League Most Valuable Player.

Talking about 1984 never gets old for Parrish.

“A lot of great players and great moments from that season,” he said. “It was a great season, from start to finish. Every day that season was special, including Jack Morris’ no-hitter. The City of Detroit truly came alive for the Tigers. Everyone was in a good mood and followed the team all summer, all season.

“We couldn’t go anywhere in the city without people talking about the Tigers. That’s what it was all about. It was just a special year for Detroit.

“I always welcome conversations about 1984 … those are the kind of conversations that you want to talk about.”

Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish behind the plate during the 1984 World Series.

Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish behind the plate during the 1984 World Series.

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Though those memories are now approaching the 40-year mark, Parrish said it often feels like 40 days ago.

“I can reflect on some things from that season and it feels like that was yesterday when those things happened. Then again, there are times when I wake up in the morning and I can hardly get out of bed, so then, yes, it does feel like 40 years ago,” he said. “Talking about 1984 always brings back good memories.”

The 1984 Tigers were honored for their 35th anniversary at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Tigers legendary pitcher Jack Morris and Lance Parrish prior to a 2018 game at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Tigers legendary pitcher Jack Morris and Lance Parrish prior to a 2018 game at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

“It was great to see everybody, reminisce again,” Parrish said.

The power-hitting Parrish played from 1977-1986 for Detroit. He then spent time with Philadelphia, the California Angles, Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Parrish’s most productive offensive season was 1982, when he batted .284 with 32 home runs and 87 RBIs.

“Hopefully I was a player who was appreciated. I always tried to do everything I could to help the ball club win,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was a great hitter as far as [batting] average goes. But I was a productive hitter.

“I had the opportunity to play on some great teams. Batting clean-up gave me the opportunity to drive in runs, and I was able to do that. I always tried to be a good teammate, and that’s really all you can ask of somebody: work hard and try to be a good teammate, do whatever you could to help the ball club win. That always was my objective, day in and day out.”

Parrish is now the Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Tigers, which includes traveling to spring training, evaluating players, instructional work and more.

“Basically I’m available for whatever [the GM] or the club would like me to do. It’s fun and I enjoy the work,” Parrish said.

Now 65, Parrish will make his autograph-signing debut at The National. He will be signing on Sunday, July 31, alongside Jack Morris, Andruw Jones, Dale Murphy, Graig Nettles, Rich Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons, Bucky Dent and Steve Garvey, among others.

“I’m excited [to appear] at this show,” Parrish said. “I’ve been picking up [collectibles] over the past 20 or 30 years from a lot of different people who I’ve run across, players who I’ve played against and players who I played with. I have autographs from some of the 500-Home Run Club members and many others.

“I don’t have a tally sheet [of autographs], but I’ve got quite a few.”

Parrish said he doesn’t have one prized collectible, but relics related to the ’84 Tigers certainly stand out.

“That was a very special year in my career, seeing what we were able to accomplish. The items that I collected from that season are my most cherished items,” he said.

Parrish’s 1978 Topps rookie card (No. 708) is one of the prized gems from that set. The four-player card also features rookies Bo Diaz, Ernie Whitt and Dale Murphy.

1978 Topps rookie card featuring Lance Parrish and Dale Murphy.

1978 Topps rookie card featuring Lance Parrish and Dale Murphy.

“I am on a lot of cards … and I have most of them,” Parrish said. “I worked with a guy in Michigan who helped me collect all my cards that are out there. I see many of them at shows, etc. I’m always amazed, knowing how many I’ve signed over the years that there are still more [unsigned] cards.”

Parrish said he prefers cards with action photos as opposed to posed photography when he’s sitting in a dugout or leaning against a batting cage.

1984 Topps Lance Parrish card.

1984 Topps Lance Parrish card.

“Looking back, it’s great seeing action photos [taken] at various stadiums,” he said. “That said, I don’t have one particular card that I like more or collect more than the others.”

A willing autograph signer, Parrish admits he would be more of an autograph seeker if the opportunity presented itself.

There are “quite a few” he’d like to get, he said.

“I don’t cross paths with a lot of the current players, such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, guys like that. Maybe in time I’ll be able to get an autograph from them and others,” he said.

Parrish said whenever he had the chance during his playing days he sought signatures. That led to autographs from Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and many others.

“I played with and against some really good players during my career. Such as Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Mike Schmidt and Jim Abbott. That Angels team had a great pitching staff: Jim Abbott, Mark Langston, Bert Blyleven, Chuck Finley and Bryan Harvey … Chili Davis, Brian Downing and Devon White also were on the team.

“There were a lot of great names I was able to play with and against. Most of the time I was on the ball to get them to sign something for me. But there are a few who got away.” 

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