by | Jan 9, 1987 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Money talks. Lance Parrish walks.

Did you really expect him to be a Detroit Tiger this morning? Why? Because the others who had threatened to leave had all come back?

Not this time. Midnight came and midnight went and there were no phone calls, no salvation, no surprises. The news was no news.

No Lance Parrish.

Get used to it now. No Lance Parrish. There should have more commotion. Some walls crumbling. An explosion at Michigan and Trumbull.

Instead, an occasional car drove past a dark Tiger Stadium and the billboard that bears Parrish’s face, while the man himself was secluded in California with his phone off the hook.

Money talks, Parrish walks. The catcher felt he deserved more than the Tigers’ two-year, $2.4 million offer (second year not guaranteed). No doubt this morning, many agree with him.

Too late now. The Tigers brass, who have been doing this longer than any of us, obviously felt he wasn’t worth what he wanted. Today we’ll begin to see if anybody else feels the same way.

Memories swim to the surface In the office Thursday night, I sat around drinking coffee, waiting for midnight and any last- minute news. How many people flicked their TV sets on at five to midnight, I wondered?

We had been through this before — last year with Kirk Gibson, last month with Jack Morris. Both returned with minutes to spare. But Parrish’s case was different. The Tiger offer he was turning down was not as significant as the offers accepted by the other guys. If one of the best catchers in baseball can’t get at least similar terms from another team, there is something wrong with him that nobody knows.

Or something very wrong with baseball.

Parrish said he fully intends to sign with some other team. That is what Jan. 8 is about for the players. The right to free agency. The right to fair market value. But fans don’t know about that stuff. Fans still get attached to players, still let their heartstrings curl around a number and a face.

Parrish’s number. Parrish’s face. Do you remember the “Goose-Busters!” chant that rattled Tiger Stadium that October evening — Game 5 of the 1984 World Series — when Parrish came up and stroked a seventh-inning home run off Goose Gossage that lit the Detroit party candle?

Sure you do. And you’ll remember Parrish running to the mound to congratulate his pitchers. And his body-builder frame, and his public service, and his grin from beneath a thin moustache.

And I will remember a time I went to see him during therapy for his injured back. He was in the hospital pool, doing laps. He hated doing laps.

“At least you’re in the water,” I yelled.

“I’d like to see you try it,” he yelled back.

I found a pair of shorts and jumped in.

We did the crawl and sidestroke. Lap after lap. There aren’t many athletes I would crawl and sidestroke with. But it was summer and we were hot and bored and we had a couple “races” in the pool and it helped the session pass.

That’s the kind of stuff you could pull with Lance Parrish, because he was always slightly amused by the unusual. And after the pool, he had to go through another hour or two of therapy, and then he gave me a lift to my car, and as I got out he said, “Hey, thanks for swimming with me.”

He probably doesn’t even remember that.

I remember it. A bat, a glove, a brain But enough. No eulogies. Parrish passed, he did not pass away. This is business. The Tigers are figuring a 30-year-old catcher with a back problem isn’t worth more than a certain gamble.

They might be right.

And they might be wrong. But they are done. No more Lance Parrish — not until May 1, if you believe in that type of thing. What the Tigers lose is a bat, a glove, a brain. They also lose an influence. What some folks call “an intangible.” Kirk Gibson brings fire, but Lance Parrish brings confidence, and it is hard to say which you would rather have as contagious on your team.

There was not a Tiger I knew of who ever spoke against him. The young guys admired him. The manager and coaches respected him. Parrish had been here 10 seasons, had never played for another major league team. He said he didn’t want to leave.

But he left.

And he almost surely is not coming back.

This is baseball now. You pack your heart in your bag and you go where things look better.

Money talks. Parrish walks.

Everybody loses.


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