Palmer Says Playing For Orioles Was About Paying It Forward
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer got emotional several times Saturday as he spoke during an unveiling of a statue of his likeness at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"Of course it's emotional," he said later. "It is the Orioles. This is the Orioles. It's the only uniform I only wore. It’s very special."
The likeness of Palmer is of him winding up on the mound, preparing to deliver a pitch. A throng of people lined the Legends Park area created this year at Oriole Park to see the unveiling. Palmer won 268 games during his career, with 2,212 strikeouts, and retired with a 2.86 ERA. He was voted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990 after retiring six years prior.
"I didn't do these things alone," Palmer said during a pregame ceremony.
Fellow Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson were in attendance. All three will be honored later this season.
"When you think of all the great pitchers in Orioles history, you first think of Jim," Ripken said. "I looked up to him as a kid, and we later became teammates. Jim was such a smart pitcher, and he was super competitive."
Murray said teammates always called Palmer "Ace."
"You always want the ball in his hands," Murray said. "For such a long time here in Baltimore, he was the guy you want to pitch the game and that is a testament to his talent."
Robinson missed the statue unveilings of Frank Robinson and Earl Weaver because of health issues. He drew a large applause when his name was announced.
"He is certainly one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, with three Cy Young awards and a Hall of Fame induction," Robinson said. "You don't get any better than that."
During the statue unveiling, Palmer fondly remembered teammate and friend Mike Flanagan, who committed suicide a year ago. The two men remained close after their retirement. Both were broadcasters at one time together.
"He gave his heart to the Orioles," Palmer said, fighting back tears.
Palmer also became emotional talking about autism, which his stepson Spencer is diagnosed with.
"I thought this would be easy," a teary Palmer said.
Palmer is planning to auction several of his cherished memorabilia, including his three Cy Young awards and two of his Gold Gloves. Some of the proceeds will go toward an autism project in Palm Beach County, Fla.
Other teammates, including Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry, Boog Powell, Terry Crowley, as well as members of the Orioles Hall of Fame Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick were in attendance as well.
Singleton looked at Robinson, Ripken, Murray and Weaver and marveled at their accomplishments.
"These are the greatest players and manager in the history of the team," Singleton told the crowd. "There's a reason why they have statues here and plaques in Cooperstown as well. Not only are they great players, they're great people, and I'm proud to call them my friends to this day."
Singleton called Palmer the greatest pitcher in Orioles history, a phrase that was used by many throughout the day.
Palmer, though, insisted later that wasn't always the case.
"For a period of time, I wasn't the best pitcher, when Cuellar and McNally were winning 23 and 24 games," Palmer said. "I was real good and I had a lower ERA, but we had really accomplished guys."
Lou Angelos, representing the team's ownership group, said Palmer's 48-year connection with the Orioles has extended in the Baltimore and Maryland community at large. Angelos said the 1970s success the Orioles attained was in large part because of Palmer, who won a World Series game in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
"Jim Palmer was the pitcher of the decade," said Angelos, who also called Palmer an elite broadcaster.
Palmer has been an analyst with the Orioles' television broadcasts for 17 years.
During his playing days and broadcasting career, Palmer learned the importance of having a mentor and being one for Flanagan, Mike Boddiker and Storm Davis as well. He said the Oriole Way was about continuity.
"There's always been this domino effect of one guy helped another guy," Palmer said. "That's what the Orioles were all about, and why would you ever leave? You see guys leaving all the time for more money. I came here when this was not a baseball town. This was a Colt town. The Orioles did a good job of instilling in us to live in the community and becoming involved in it."
Posted July 14, 2012