Former Dodger Wes Parker Reflects on Career in Baseball and Beyond

Next season, the Dodgers celebrate their 50th year in Los Angeles, and the year will be filled with golden anniversary celebrations. Dodger stars from the past will be feted, including a man who was voted by fans as the best first baseman in modern baseball. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde takes us out to Dodger Stadium for a conversation with six-time Golden Glove winner Wes Parker.

Kitty Felde: It's one of the most difficult feats in baseball: hitting a single, a double, a triple and a home run – all in the same game.

Vin Scully (annoucing a game): And now here's Wes Parker.

Felde: The last time a Dodger hit for the cycle was May 7, 1970. Announcer Vin Scully sets the stage.

[Sound of Vin Scully play-by-play]

Felde: Wes Parker was an unlikely big leaguer. He grew up in Brentwood, and attended private school. But he also spent every waking minute playing catch with his little brother out on the front lawn.

Wes Parker: My dad had played when he grew up in Boston, he played town team ball and high school ball. He was a good athlete. And he passed that love along to me, along with a love of classical music.

Felde: That love of classical music made him an odd duck in a locker room where rock music was the standard pre-game fare.

Parker: One time in New York I said, "Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic are doing the Beethoven 9th at Carnegie Hall. We gotta go." And they said, "Who did he play for?"

Felde: After college and a tour of Europe, Parker set his sights on the major leagues ... even though the scouts barely knew him. He talked his way into a tryout. A year later in 1964, Wes Parker was playing at Dodger Stadium. But the majors were an eye opener for the kid from Brentwood.

Parker: Much tougher, much rougher, much more gutsy and raw and real and dirty.

Felde: Parker's graceful work at first base helped the Dodgers reach the World Series twice – and won him half a dozen Golden Glove awards. Unfortunately, baseball isn't only about defense.

Parker: The hitting was a nightmare.

Felde: Batting champions Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis told Parker he wouldn't be a good hitter until he learned to hate the ball.

Parker: The hitting requires a lot more aggressiveness. You have to attack the ball. You had to just go after it; you had to attack, attack, attack.

Felde: It took five seasons before Parker became a good hitter. He played four more years, then retired in 1972. Travel and boredom had taken their toll.

Parker: I can tell you for sure it takes an incredible amount of dedication, effort, a singleness of purpose, concentration, mental discipline, commitment to go out there night after night after night for eight months, with hardly any days off, and lay it on the line.

Felde: Parker turned to play-by-play. And to then to acting, starring in a TV series, a film, and dozens of commercials. Oh, and a guest-star role in a cult classic.

[Music: Theme song from "The Brady Bunch"]

Parker: Incredible. I'm better known for 10 seconds on "The Brady Bunch" than nine years of professional Major League baseball.

[Dialogue from "The Brady Bunch": Greg Brady meeting Wes Parker]

Parker: I hate it, I hate it. Life is not fair.

Felde: This summer, Parker discovered his fans did remember his baseball exploits. They elected him to the Rawlings All Time Golden Glove Team at first base.

These days, Parker fills his days with golf and bridge. He teaches a class at the Braille Institute. He collects astronaut memorabilia. He's 25 pounds lighter than he was when he was playing ball, and he coaches special clinics for the Dodgers. And Wes Parker's writing a memoir.

Parker: I've always been incredibly, deeply, almost cosmically grateful for the opportunity that I got.

[Sound of Vin Scully play-by-play]