Blog #55 (Jim Palmer)

By Richard J. Decker on June 26, 2013 7:00 AM

This week there is no legal section of the blog.

Now for the Opening Day memory:

Like fellow Hall of Famer Robin Yount, Jim Palmer played his entire career for the same team and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Jim pitched for the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1984, although he missed the entire 1968 season due to injury. Interestingly, he was left unprotected by the Orioles in the 1969 expansion draft, but was selected by neither the Kansas City Royals nor the Seattle Pilots. A big mistake (with hindsight, of course) on both of their parts. Just four days after his return from the disabled list in 1969, Jim threw a no-hitter against the Oakland A's. In the 1970's, Jim won a total of 186 games, more than any other pitcher. His career accomplishments, along with his spats with his former manager Earl Weaver, are legendary. They include, but are not limited to, winning 20 or more games 8 times, 3 Cy Young awards, 4 Gold Glove awards, 6 time All Star, 8 postseason appearances including pitching on 6 pennant winning teams, a 3 time World Series champion and a career record of 268-152 with a 2.86 ERA, 2212 strikeouts, 53 shutouts and 211 complete games in 3948 innings pitched. His best season was 1975, where he led the American League with 23 wins, 10 shutouts and a 2.09 ERA, and won the second of his 3 Cy Young's. Jim is the only pitcher to have won a World Series game in 3 different decades (his win in the 1983 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies is his final career win), the only member of the Orioles to be on all 6 Orioles pennant winning teams, the youngest pitcher ever to pitch a World Series shutout at age 20 in 1966, and a member of the last starting rotation with four 20 game winners (along with Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson) and the last surviving of those four. In his 19 year career, Jim never gave up a grand slam or back to back home runs. Jim was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1990. Since his retirement, he has been a color commentator and Jockey underwear spokesman and model, and involved with raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. Here are his Opening Day memories:

Palmer.jpg"My first Opener was in 1965. I was 19 and came up from A-Ball. Back then you could only protect 25 players and one in the minors. The Orioles protected a guy by the name of Steve Caria from San Carlos, California. We had played against each other in Babe Ruth ball. He represented Northern California and I represented Arizona. He and I were the two best young pitchers in the organization. I had a little better year in A-Ball the year before, so the Orioles decided I was one of the 25 and I made the ball club.

My first Opening Day was cloudy and overcast. There was a mayor named Theodore McKeldin, and they booed him! I was 19 and I said to myself, 'They voted for this guy and now they're booing him?' I didn't realize that was what Baltimore was all about.

And then Jerry Vale, who was a very good friend of Milt Pappas, who was traded the next year for Frank Robinson, was invited to sing the National Anthem and forgot the words, but I didn't really care because I was 19 and I was kind of hoping to stay on the major league roster the entire year.

My biggest fear was that after Opening Day - they had what they called a progressive bonus - you got $1,000 for going to Double A for 90 days, $1,500 for going to Triple A for 90 days, and $5,000 for staying in the big leagues, and since I was only making $7,000 as it was, I felt that on the 89th day they'd send me out, so I was thinking about the following on Opening Day: (1) Will I have to pitch today? (2) Will I make it for 90 days? and (3) So what if Jerry Vale forgot the words to the National Anthem? It didn't really matter, because I was in the big leagues!"

Not only was Jim a Hall of Fame pitcher, he also was an amazing (not surprising) Opening Day pitcher. He won 5 of his 6 Opening Day starts, beating the likes of Mickey Lolich, Joe Coleman and Fergie Jenkins. See you in two. Richie