Ten days ago in Philadelphia, Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates got a death threat.
"I'm gonna blow you away," said the coward's voice.
That was a mistake. Never step on The Cobra's tail. Don't insult Adonis' pride.
Before the crank call, Parker was the hottest hitter in the National League - .370 for the previous six weeks. Afterward, however, the Buc right-fielder got mad.
In the nine games since the threat, Parker has put his 6-foot-5, 235-pound wrecking-ball body into overdrive, batting .464 and slugging 1.129. In one seven-game span, the defending NL batting champ drove in 15 runs.
That's the way to Thank-a-Crank.
An entire team would now like to get its hands on the telephone tough guy. That team is the Phillies. During Parker's rampage, their division lead over the Pirates shrunk from five games to two.
"I must be having a good year, right?" said Parker, who is nicknamed "Cobra" by others for his snapping bat, but prefers to call himself "Adonis." "The nuts don't call up .240 hitters to tell 'em they've got 'em in their sights."
It is typical of Parker's faint-praise career by the Monongahela - call him Dave the Obscure - that he had to wait until his sixth season for his first heavy-breather to call. Reggie Jackson, for instance, has said, "I can't go to the movies without getting sued."
Last Saturday in Pittsburg, Parker was conked in the head by an apple thrown from the stands.
"Gee," dead-panner Parker, who had three doubles that day. "I thought I'd had a pretty good game."
In his next two games, Parker had three singles, a triple and three home runs. Easily intimidated, that's Parker.
Without question, the best statistical player in the game this season is Boston's Jim Rice. Parker, even though he leads the NL in batting, total bases, slugging RBI and triples, and ranks in the top five in runs, hits and homers, must defer to Rice's staggering stats.
But if the 25-year-old Rice were taken out of Fenway Park and forced to play in a spacious, symmetrical park like Three Rivers Stadium, the 27-year-old Parker might soon be known as the game's one total superstar.
Parker is a throw back to the young stars of 20 years ago - Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron - who could do everything spectacularly.
Well, almost. Despite Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner's claim that Parker is "the best player in the world," the bearded Pirate has a few flaws.
True, Parker is on the verge of winning back-to-back batting titles and has been a .320 hitter for the last four years combined.
True, parker has cured his worst ailment; lack of loft. His hardest drives went through walls instead of over them. This year, he has 29 taters. Problem solved.
And, it's a fact that Parker is a Gold Glove outfielder who led the majors last year with 26 assists. Parker can throw a ball almost as far as he can hit it.
Okay, okay, Parker also steals bases and almost never gets caught (17 of 19 in '77).
But Parker makes errors. There, it's out. Parker not only misjudges his share of flies, he drops some, too. In the last two seasons, he has 29 errors.
However, that is Parker's only known liability. He has beaten all the other raps. Poor clutch hitter? Batted only .056 in two playoff? Had only 88 RBI in 637 at-bats in '77 while winning the batting title?
Parker has answered that charge with 111 RBI this year, 54 of them in the Bucs last 51 games as they have clawed back into a pennant race.
At last, Parker is as good as he looks, and as good as he says he is.
"I'm the foundation. They build around me," said Parker. "Why do I wear a Star of David around my neck? Well, I'm a David and I'm a star."
Actually, Parker's walking jewelry display includes medallions of several religions - "Just touching all bases."
If Parker seems hip, flip, money-conscious and vain on first impression, it is partly misleading. "I talk a lot of trash," Parker smiles self-deprecatingly, "but on this team, you better attact all the time. We got more needles on this club than a hospital."
Growing to a baseball maturity in the Pittsburgh locker room of the Lumber and Lightining Co., Parker could only have cultivated a bombastic exterior. Willis Stargell and Dock Ellis were his mentors in braggadcio.
Asked if he would mind playing in a Phillies uniform after his three-year, $200,000-per contract expires after 1979, Parker said,". . . the color uniform doesn't matter. I look great in anything . . .
"Wouldn't that be something, (Greg) Luzinski, (Gary) Maddox and Parker in the same outfield. A rhino, a grayhound and Adonis."
Ironically, Parker's macho manner may have cost him the triple crown this year. Parker likes to brag that he would have preferred a career in the NFL as a runner because "I love to run over people."
Parker has left a string of injured catchers as a testimony to that boast. But this year Parker tried to clobber one catcher too many. New York's John Stearns had time to plant himself, equipment and all, and deliver a return blow when Parker barreled home June 30.
Result: triple break in cheekbone, permanent wire in jaw.
Parker missed a dozen games, then hit an 0-for-24 streak when he returned. If he had those times at bat back, if he had not had to come to the plate wearing a hockey goalie's mask and run the bases in a football helmet. Parker might have a home run crown to go with the batting and RBI titles that he is close to nailing down.
However, Parker does not second-guess himself. "I play the whole game and I play it aggresively," he said.
To the doctor who repaired his jaw, Parker plans to send - what else - an oil painting of himself.
Whether Adonis is crashing a wall, a curve ball or a catcher, it should be a classic picture.