08/22/2007 12:35 PM ET
Former Dodger first baseman Wes Parker named to all-time Rawlings Gold Glove team
Parker wins vote as the greatest defensive first baseman in the last half century
LOS ANGELES -- Former Dodger first baseman Wes Parker has been selected as the greatest defensive first baseman since the inception of the Gold Glove Award in 1957, according to fan balloting sponsored by Rawlings that began in Spring Training. By garnering 53 percent of the vote, Parker beat out, in order, Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez, J.T. Snow, Vic Power and Bill White for the honor.
"This award wraps up my career in the most beautiful way possible," said Parker, who will be recognized for the honor at Dodger Stadium on August 29. "I took great pride in my fielding. The first base position, I think, has been slighted over the years by players thinking they have only to catch throws and dig balls from the dirt to play it well. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dedicated first basemen charge bunts, range to their left and right for grounders, dive for balls, run all over the place for pop-ups and use their arms aggressively. They take risks, go after everything and defend their ground with pride and determination. And in doing all this they expand the position from one of passivity and conservatism to one of action, excitement, daring, beauty and grace.
"I am proud to bring this award home to Los Angeles, prouder still to call it my own personal Hall of Fame."
Beginning in February, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award, fans began voting on www.RawlingsGoldGlove.com, at thousands of participating sporting goods retailer locations, by mobile device and via the U.S. Postal Service for players that were nominated at each position since the inception of the award. The nominees were decided upon by a panel of baseball officials, managers, broadcasters, historians and writers and announced in New York City on February 20.
Parker won six straight Gold Gloves in Los Angeles from 1967-72 and played his entire career with the Dodgers from 1964-72. He finished fifth in the 1970 NL MVP vote after hitting .319 with 47 doubles and 111 RBI and also helped the Dodgers win the 1965 World Series over the Twins, hitting .304 with a homer and two RBI while playing error-free baseball in the seven-game series.
The Southern California native was originally signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent before the 1963 season after playing his collegiate baseball at Claremont McKenna College, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. In 1968, he made just one error at first base, which was controversial, as it came on an Astroturf bounce at the Houston Astrodome. The switch-hitter retired after the 1972 season with a Major League record .996 fielding percentage at first, making just 45 errors in 10,380 chances. Parker is now part of the Dodgers' Speakers Bureau, where he attends community events and works closely with the Dodgers Dream Foundation. He also volunteers regularly at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.
Former Dodger pitcher Greg Maddux, who won the Gold Glove after his only season in Los Angeles last year, received 50 percent of the vote and was named the best defensive pitcher all time by the fans.
Parker is the lone winner who has not been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The other winners announced today by Rawlings are catcher Johnny Bench, second baseman Joe Morgan, shortstop Ozzie Smith, third baseman Brooks Robinson and outfielders Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Ken Griffey Jr.
Since Rawlings began handing out the Gold Glove Award in 1957, 18 different Dodgers have taken home the honor 34 times, including Gil Hodges, who was on the inaugural team at first base.