Major Leagues: Parnell making mark
A ninth-inning error got Bobby Parnell in trouble against Philadelphia on Saturday, but the former East Rowan player weathered Chase Utley’s two-run homer and Dominick Brown’s double to pick up his 18th save of the season and the 32nd of his big-league career.
Parnell, mostly a third baseman in his days at East and the first baseman for the 2002 Rowan County American Legion state champs, is now far and away the all-time saves leader in the big leagues for pitchers who are Rowan County natives.
It’s proof that you never know. Parnell won two games on the East varsity, both as a senior in 2002, and he struck out 16 in the 11 2/3 innings he pitched in his high school career. He had zero high school saves while playing on very strong teams with plenty of pitching options.
Parnell’s only significant Legion time on the mound came in 2003, when he returned to the Rowan County squad following a struggling freshman year at Charleston Southern. Parnell was 2-2 with three saves that summer, although the potential for a future breakout was evident. He fanned 45 in his 31 innings on the mound.
The previous MLB record for career saves by a Rowan native was held by Granite Quarry’s Jay Ritchie. Ritchie pitched in the big leagues five seasons in the 1960s for the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Cincinatti Reds and accumulated eight saves. He also had eight career wins.
Ritchie appeared in 167 games in the majors, 165 of them as a reliever, and he achieved a certain measure of immortality when his smiling portrait made it on to a Topps bubblegum card in 1965.
The pitcher who holds most of the records for Rowan pitchers in the big leagues is West Rowan product Barry Moore. A lefty, Moore lasted six seasons in the big time, pitching in 140 games and throwing nearly 600 innings from 1965-1970. On a day in 1967 when everything went right, he pitched the lone shutout of his MLB career.
Moore, who toiled mostly for not-so-good Washington Senators teams, also had stops at the end of his career with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
He started 99 games and completed eight. He fanned 278 batters on his way to 26 wins and 37 losses.
The 28-year-old Parnell’s career won-lost record is 18-23, so Moore will hold him off a while longer in the career wins category.
However, Parnell, who reached 300 career innings on Saturday, is about to overtake Moore in career strikeouts. Parnell has 273, so he needs six more to become the all-time leader from Rowan County. That should take him about three innings.
Parnell, who will celebrate the fifth anniversary of his first big-league outing on Sept. 15, already has set a record as the best compensated Rowan County native in the majors. His Mets contract this year is for $1,700,000.
That’s exactly 100 times what Moore was paid when he toiled for $17,000 in his last big-league season in 1970.
A dozen players who could be classified as Rowan Countians (reference books don’t agree on whether 1930s St. Louis Browns catcher Roxy Crouch belongs to Salisbury or Cooleemee) have appeared in the big leagues.
South Rowan’s Brian Smith, who pitched in three games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000, was the most recent before Parnell.
The most accomplished Rowan big-leaguer, when his coaching record is added to his playing record, is probably Granite’s Vern Benson.
As far as on the field, Rockwell’s Clyde Kluttz probably is the all-time leader — at least prior to Parnell, who could pitch in some all-star games before he’s finished.
In nine seasons in the 1940s and 1950s, Kluttz caught for six different big-league teams. He played in 656 games and produced 510 hits. He had 19 homers and 212 RBIs.
Bill Baker, born in Paw Creek but a graduate of Salisbury’s Boyden High, also has a permanent claim to fame. The catcher played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1940 World Series.