On Saturday, Dave Parker will be inducted in the Reds Hall of Fame along with fellow outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., second baseman Ron Oester and 19th-century first baseman Jake Beckley. Parker will be part of a weekend full of events .
CINCINNATI -- Dave Parker is one of the biggest names -- and people -- in Cincinnati history.
In addition to being a mountain of a man at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, the fastball-pounding Big League outfielder is also one of the most beloved local athletes the city has ever helped produce.
Now 62 years old, the Courter Tech High School grad is battling a curveball thrown by life: Parkinson's disease.
"I'm sitting there talking to my doctor and I get a little tremor in my right hand. I asked (the doctor) if he saw that and he said, 'yeah, I saw that,'" said Parker, recalling the moments leading up to his life-changing diagnosis.
The disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.
But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson's disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement, according to the Mayo Clinic .
The gradual loss of movement is a devastating life-changer for Parker, who once parlayed his amazing hand-eye coordination, grace around the warning track and general athletic ability into the first-ever $1 million annual salary by a professional athlete (five-year, $5 million contract in 1979).
"When I first found out it really got me down, it almost depressed me," Parker said.
But Parker has refused to let his illness get the better of him, much like he did when facing the electric stuff of pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and the enigmatic Fernando Valenzuela.
"I prayed on it, my wife prayed on it, my church family prayed on it, and I came to grips with it as my newest life challenge," said Parker.
His refusal to back down and never-give-up disposition helped him stand out as not only a dominant performer but also a veteran leader during his four-season stint with his hometown Reds. He had career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (125) with the team in 1985.
Early in his career, as a young ballplayer, that mentality helped him carry the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series championship in 1979. He also took home the National League MVP in 1978 for his role as a proverbial big brother on the famed "We Are Family" Pirates.
Now, he's counting on loved ones in Queen City, the town he still calls home, to help him keep his head in the game during this newest battle.
"I'm a tough guy and I'm not going to let (Parkinson's disease) beat me. I'm not going to lay down for it. I'm going to be in this battle for as long as I can."
Watch John Popovich's interview with The Cobra in the media player above.