PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Clarence “Ace” Parker, the oldest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has died. He was 101.
Parker died Wednesday, according to Bryan Johnson of B.W. Foster Funeral Home in Portsmouth.
A Portsmouth native, Parker played football, basketball and baseball at Duke, then was a first-round draft choice of the National Football League’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. Instead of pursuing a career on the gridiron, Parker opted to play baseball for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics.
In his first at-bat, the shortstop hit a home run at Fenway Park, becoming the third player in major league history to homer in his first at-bat.
He later traded baseball for football, starring for the Dodgers from 1937-41, and winning the most valuable player award in 1940.
That season, the 5-foot-10, 178-pounder threw 10 touchdown passes, ran for 306 yards and two touchdowns, caught two touchdown passes, kicked 19 extra points and shared the league lead with six interceptions on defense. He also punted for the Dodgers, averaging 38 yards per kick.
After the 1941 season, Parker left football to serve in World War II.
He returned after the war with the Boston Yanks in 1945 and finished his football career the following season in the rival American Football Conference playing quarterback for the New York Yankees. Again, he traded shoes and went back to his first love, baseball.
He played and managed in the minor leagues for the Portsmouth Cubs and the Durham Bulls from 1946 to 1952, and then coached football and baseball at Duke from 1947 until 1965. He also worked as an NFL scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers until his retirement in June 1987.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.