Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Man Behind the Mask

My first crack at a 1979 Topps card with an explanation from Paul Lukas on
The year was 1978 and the player was Dave Parker of the Pirates, who would be named the league's MVP at the season's conclusion. But there was a slight detour on the way to that award, and it came in the form of a home plate collision with Mets catcher John Stearns on June 30. The play knocked Parker out of the lineup with a fractured jaw and cheekbone.

"He wanted to play again right away, so I knew I had to come up with something fast," recalls Tony Bartirome, who was the Pirates' trainer at the time. "If he'd had his way, he would have missed only four games."

Parker ultimately sat out a little over two weeks. But when he returned to action on July 16, something was different -- like, very different. That photo is from Parker's first game back, when he pinch hit in the 11th inning while wearing a hockey goalie's mask. He was intentionally walked, leading to a macabre spectacle on the bases. The "Friday the 13th" movies didn't yet exist in 1978, but Parker was already perfecting the art of masked menace. It marked the beginning of a bizarre chapter in uniform history, a summerlong series of creative headgear experiments that had opposing teams asking, "Who was that masked man?"


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