Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Palmer
Jim Palmer’s Hall of Fame career – 19 seasons, all in a Baltimore Orioles uniform – got its start in the 1960s, and nearly ended there. While showing flashes of brilliance in his early major league career – including being the youngest pitcher to throw a World Series shutout – assorted back and arm problems nearly ended his career before he could establish himself as one of the game’s most durable and consistent starters during the 1970s.
Palmer was signed by the Orioles in 1963 at age 17 and made his debut with the Orioles two years later, going 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 27 appearances – all but six in relief. He moved into the Orioles’ starting rotation in 1966, going 15-10 with a 3.46 ERA. He pitched the game that clinched the American League pennant for the Orioles, and pitched the second game of the 1966 World Series, shutting out the Dodgers 6-0 and beating Sandy Koufax (in what would turn out to be his final major league appearance).
Arm miseries plagued Palmer over the next two seasons. He pitched only nine innings in 1967 and spent the entire 1968 season in minor league rehab, during which time Palmer reworked his pitching mechanics. He re-emerged in 1969 showing signs of the pitcher he would become: going 16-4 with a 2.34 ERA and six shutouts. He also pitched a no-hitter against the Oakland A’s.
During the 1970s Palmer hit his stride, a stride that would carry him to Cooperstown. He won 20 or more games in eight of the next nine seasons. He led the American League in ERA in 1973 (2.40) and in 1975 (2.09), when he led the majors in wins (23) and shutouts (10).
Palmer retired after being released by the Orioles in 1984 with a record of 268-152 and a career ERA of 2.86. He was an All-Star six times, and was the first American League pitcher to win three Cy Young Awards. During his entire major league career, he never gave up a grand slam home run, or even back-to-back home runs.
Palmer remains the Orioles’ all-time career leader in games pitched, innings pitched, games started, wins, shutouts and strikeouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, his first year of eligibility.