Parkinson's sufferer Dave Parker advises Gibson to stay informed

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Former MLB star Dave Parker was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease two years ago.

Detroit — Dave Parker was sitting in his doctor's office two years ago, just waiting for some blood work during his annual checkup.

Then his hand started trembling. The doctor noticed. And in short order, he was diagnosed with a disease he knew nothing about — Parkinson's disease.

Understandably, he was scared. Today, not so much.

"I think I am gonna die of something," he said, laughing, "But it won't be Parkinson's.

"I'm more at ease with it."

Parker, 63, who spent 19 seasons as a slugger in the major leagues, got word early Tuesday that another baseball great, former Tiger Kirk Gibson, had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Gibson has been absent from the Fox Sports Detroit booth since Opening Day, and his return date is not known. But Parker said he has no doubt Gibson won't be out of action for long.

Parker takes two tablets in the morning and two tablets in the evening, and they help keep his symptoms — like tremors — in check, if not completely absent.

"I think Gibby should use as much information on the disease as possible, know what to expect and deal with it," Parker said over the phone from his home in Cincinnati. "I would suggest taking the medicine, take the medicine.

"He's a strong guy, a hell of a player, a hell of an athlete. If anybody can get through it, he can."

Parkinson's disease strikes about 1 percent of people over the age of 60. The effect it has on patients varies — some live it for years and years, or decades and decades, with no major issue. For others, it can be more of an obstacle, affecting motion and movement.

Parker, who hit 339 home runs in his career spent mostly with the Pirates and Reds but also briefly with the A's team that Gibson's Dodgers beat in the 1988 World Series, said he still does most of the things he always did.

Parker still plays golf — he was just off the course when he spoke over the phone Tuesday — and teaches hitting to kids. The only thing he said he can't do anymore is play racquetball.

"I spoke to a high-school baseball team a while ago, and one of the kids said, 'Mr. Parker, how has Parkinson's affected your life?'" he recalled. "'Well, now, I make the best milk shakes in town.'"

Clearly, the sense of humor isn't hampered by Parkinson's disease.

But it's a serious situation. Parker recognizes that.

"You've gotta play the hand you're dealt," he said. "Being an athlete like I was, I'm sure Kirk's the same way, you just gotta play the hand you're dealt.

"You just gotta adjust your lifestyle."

Parker said it now takes him longer to get dressed, and he has to watch his wife play racquetball now, instead of going up against her.

And there are days, he said, where he doesn't feel like going outside, or attending functions — functions that take up a lot of ex-major leaguers' time, and functions Parker enjoys.

But you just have to keep going, Parker said. A support system helps him. And Gibson's wife and children will help him, too, Parker said.

"You gotta slow down, your body's gonna slow down," said Parker, who won two World Series titles, one with the Pirates and one with the A's. "It's something he's gotta fight through.

"Tell Gibby I wish him the best."