Clarence "Ace" Parker, a two-sport star of the 1930s and '40s, celebrates his 100th birthday today. Parker, who was born May 17, 1912 in Portsmouth, Va., is the first member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and just the fourth former NFL player, to reach the age of 100.
Parker, an All-American at Duke, was the second-round pick of the NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1937 NFL Draft. He began his pro football career with the Dodgers later that year after playing a season of professional baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. Parker started at quarterback in his first NFL game just days after signing his contract with Brooklyn.
A two-way player noted for his versatility, Parker passed, caught passes, carried the ball, punted and placekicked, returned punts, and intercepted passes. His multi-dimensional talents were recognized when he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1940. Although he did not win any one statistical title that season, he ranked near the top in nearly all categories.
Parker's pro career (68 games) is among the shortest of any player enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His start was delayed by his baseball career and he then missed three seasons due to his service in the Navy during World War II.
Despite transforming the Dodgers into winners Parker did not play on a division champion until 1946 when he joined the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference.
Three other former NFL players were centenarians: Ralph Horween (1921-23 Chicago Cardinals) died at 100 in 1997; Tom Dickinson (1920 Detroit Heralds) died at 102 in 1999; and Sam Dana (who played under the name of Sam Salemi for the 1928 New York Yankees) died in 2007 at the age of 104.
Parker, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, is one of twelve Hall of Famers who reached 90 years of age including three other living members: Ed Sabol, 95; Ralph Wilson, Jr., 93; and Steve Van Buren, 91.
Stories on Parker along with photos and video can be found on the Hall of Fame's website at Profootballhof.com.
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