Harry Parker seemed like a good fit for the Cardinals in their first amateur draft in 1965.
A standout in baseball, basketball and cross country at Collinsville (Ill.) High School near St. Louis, Parker, a right-handed pitcher, was the fourth-round choice of the Cardinals.
He became the most successful big-league player taken by St. Louis in that draft. But most of that success came while with the Mets instead of the Cardinals.
In the last week of August 2012, it was reported Parker, 64, had died in May. Sadly, his passing went largely unnoticed in baseball circles.
Though he wasn’t a star, Parker was successful in the Cardinals’ system, made his big-league debut with St. Louis and pitched in a World Series (for the Mets in 1973).
Before 1965, amateurs could sign with any big-league organizations of their choosing. When the major leagues instituted the draft, the Cardinals were selecting as the defending World Series champions.
Their first three selections _ pitcher Joe DiFabio, first baseman Terry Milani and outfielder Billy Wolff _ never made it to the big leagues. The fourth choice was Parker.
Signed by Cardinals scout Joe Monahan, Parker had led the Collinsville baseball team in wins in three consecutive seasons and was named the team’s most valuable player his senior year. He and his younger brother, Tom, also played basketball, helping Collinsville to a state championship. Tom went on to a standout basketball career at the University of Kentucky.
Parker pitched well in the Cardinals’ system. He was 12-5 with a 2.80 ERA and struck out 127 in 132 innings for a 1967 Class A Modesto team managed by Sparky Anderson. In 1970, Parker was 8-6 with a 3.59 ERA for manager Warren Spahn’s Class AAA Tulsa club.
The Cardinals promoted him to the big leagues in August 1970. He got the start in his major-league debut and he got the win in his second appearance. St. Louis won both games by the same score, 11-10.
On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 8, 1970, Parker debuted against the Expos at Busch Stadium II. He walked seven and yielded six runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings. Al Hrabosky got the win in relief. Boxscore
Reported The Sporting News: If (Parker) was a bit nervous, it was understandable. He probably was the first pitcher to make his major-league debut a few hours before his high school class reunion.
Parker’s hitting may have been more noteworthy than his pitching that day. On the first big-league pitch thrown to him, Parker singled to right off Mike Marshall.
Three days later, Aug. 11, Parker earned the only win of his Cardinals career in a game that became part of franchise lore.
The Padres led 8-6 when Parker relieved in the top of the ninth. With two out, he yielded a two-run single to third baseman Ed Spiezio, a former Cardinal, extending San Diego’s lead to 10-6.
But in the bottom half of the inning, the Cardinals mounted an improbable comeback against relievers Ron Willis (another ex-Cardinal) and Ron Herbel. After scoring a run, St. Louis had the bases loaded with two out when Carl Taylor, pinch-hitting for Parker, hit a grand slam off Herbel, handing Parker the win. Boxscore
Parker was 1-1 with a 3.22 ERA in seven games (four starts) for the 1970 Cardinals. He spent most of the ’71 season at Tulsa (11-12, 3.70 ERA) and appeared in four games (0-0, 7.20 ERA) for St. Louis that year.
In October, a day after the Pirates won the 1971 World Series title, the Cardinals traded Parker, pitcher Chuck Taylor, outfielder Jim Beauchamp and infielder Chip Coulter to the Mets for pitchers Jim Bibby, Rich Folkers and Charlie Hudson and outfielder Art Shamsky.
Parker had his best big-league season for the 1973 National League champion Mets. He was 8-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 38 games.
Parker beat the Cardinals twice in relief that season. Those wins were huge, considering the Cardinals finished 1.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East. Parker got the win with three shutout innings of relief in the Mets’ 10-3 victory over the Cardinals on Aug. 6. Boxscore He beat the Cardinals again with four shutout innings of relief in the Mets’ 5-2 victory on Sept. 23, dropping St. Louis three games behind New York. Boxscore
In the 1973 World Series, Parker pitched in three games against the Athletics and was the losing pitcher in Game 3. In the 11th inning, second baseman Ted Kubiak (a former Cardinal) walked and advanced on catcher Jerry Grote’s passed ball. Shortstop Bert Campaneris singled, scoring Kubiak and giving Oakland a 3-2 victory. Boxscore
Two years later, Aug. 4, 1975, the Cardinals acquired Parker on waivers from the Mets. “My arm is well again,” Parker told The Sporting News. “I had a shoulder problem that I pitched with all of 1974.”
Parker was 0-1 with a 6.27 ERA in 14 games for the ’75 Cardinals. When it became apparent he hadn’t won a spot in the bullpen the following spring, the Cardinals traded Parker to the Indians for pitcher Roric Harrison on April 7, 1976.
In three seasons with the Cardinals, Parker was 1-2 with a 4.89 ERA in 25 games. In a six-year career with the Cardinals, Mets and Indians, Parker had a regular-season mark of 15-21 with a 3.85 ERA.