One of the top power-hitting catchers of all-time, Lance Parrish gave his pitchers a big target with shoulders so broad airplanes could land on them. The slugging catcher enjoyed his salad years in Detroit, helping them win a World Series in 1984.
The Tigers unveiled a trio of youngsters in 1977 when they called up Lance, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker to play out the remainder of the season. These three cats would be the core of their offense into the 1980s. In 1978, as a rookie, Lance platooned behind the plate with Milt May and slugged fourteen homers in part-time action. His breakout year came in 1979 when he hit .276 with 19 long balls.
An All-Star for the first time in 1980, Parrish led American League backstops in homeruns, runs, doubles, hits, triples and slugging average. Earning a Silver Slugger Award, Lance quickly became the most fearsome catcher in the junior circuit. After the strike shortened ’81 campaign, Lance made another All-Star appearance by swatting 32 long balls. He was the only Major League receiver to reach the 30 homer benchmark. Parrish hit a nifty .284 during the year (best among AL catchers) and he and Hall of Famer Gary Carter were the only backstops in the Majors to slug over .500.
Entrenched as power threat in the Tigers lineup, Lance belted 27 homers in 1983 while reaching the 100 RBI plateau–driving in 114 runs. He was more than just a devastating offensive catcher: he was a dynamic talent on the ball diamond. That year Lance finished second to Robin Yount with 42 doubles and won his first Gold Glove Award (he would win three Gold Glove Awards, six Silver Slugger Awards and be named to eight All-Star teams).
In Detroit’s magical 104-win 1984 season, Lance used his power to guide the Tigers to the World Series. The brawny backstop was the only Major League catcher to swat over 30 homeruns and he paced AL backstops with 98 RBI. In the ALCS, Lance blasted a homer and went yard again in a Fall Classic triumph over the Padres of San Diego. Just as good in ’85, Parrish belted 28 homers and drove home 98 runs; numbers that were just behind Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk.
Injured for a portion of the 1986 season, Parrish nevertheless swatted 22 long balls in his abbreviated season. The Tigers had a kid named Matt Nokes showing signs of stardom so Detroit allowed Lance to test the free agent waters. Landing with the Phillies, Lance smacked 17 homers in 1987 and led NL catchers in homeruns and RBI in 1988–an All-Star season. After the ’88 season, Philadelphia traded Lance to the Angels for a nondescript pitcher and he finished second to masher Mickey Tettleton in homers among AL catchers in ’89.
His last great season came in 1990. Winning is last Silver Slugger Award and named to his final All-Star Game, Parrish led all Major League catchers in homeruns and RBI. He slugged 19 homeruns in ’91 but his batting average sunk to an unflattering .216. In Lance’s last four Major League seasons he played for five different clubs.
G 1,988/R 856/H 1,782/2B 305/3B 27/HR 324/RBI 1,070/BB 612/SO 1,527/BA .252/SA .440