|Born: October 15, 1945|
New York City, New York
|April 17, 1965, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 12, 1984, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Earned run average||2.86|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||92.6% (first ballot)|
James Alvin Palmer (born October 15, 1945) is an American former professional baseball pitcher who played 19 years in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Baltimore Orioles (1965-1967, 1969-1984). Palmer was the winningest MLB pitcher in the 1970s, totaling 186 wins. He also won at least 20 games in eight different seasons and won three Cy Young Awards and four Gold Gloves during the decade. His 268 career victories are currently an Orioles record. A six-time American League (AL) All-Star, he was also one of the rare pitchers who never allowed a grand slam in any major league contest.
Palmer appeared in the postseason eight times and was a vital member of three World Series Champions, six AL pennant winners and seven Eastern Division titleholders. He is the only pitcher in history to earn a win in a World Series game in three different decades. He is also the youngest to pitch a complete-game shutout in a World Series, doing so nine days before his 21st birthday in 1966, in which he defeated Sandy Koufax in Koufax's last appearance. He was one of the starters on the last rotation to feature four 20-game winners in a single season in 1971. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Since his retirement as an active player in 1984, Palmer has worked as a color commentator on telecasts of MLB games for ABC and ESPN and for the Orioles on Home Team Sports (HTS), Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). He has also been a popular spokesman, most famously for Jockey International for almost 20 years. He was nicknamed "Cakes" in the 1960s because of his habit of eating pancakes for breakfast on the days he pitched.
James Alvin Palmer was born in Manhattan, New York City on October 15, 1945. Research conducted by his third wife Susan in 2017 revealed that his biological father and mother were Michael Joseph Geheran and Mary Ann Moroney, both Irish immigrants from Counties Leitrim and Clare respectively. Joe was a married 41-year-old man about town, while Mary Ann was an unmarried 37-year-old domestic worker for the Feinstein family which was prominent in the garment industry. Moroney gave up her infant for adoption and concealed information in the New York City birth registry, where Palmer is listed as Baby Boy Kennedy, whose father was Maroney and mother was Kennedy. Maroney was the incorrect spelling of her surname as listed when she registered at Ellis Island, while Kennedy was her sister Katharine's married name. Moroney eventually married John Lane and the couple had a daughter, Patricia, Palmer's biological half-sister, who died of leukemia at age 40 in 1987. (As of May 2018, the Palmers were still searching for Patricia Lane's daughter, whose married name is Kimberly Hughes and who would be Jim Palmer's half-niece.) Geheran died in 1959 and Moroney in 1979.
Two days after his birth, Palmer was adopted by Moe Wiesen and his wife Polly, a wealthy Manhattan dress designer and a boutique owner respectively, who lived on Park Avenue. His sister Bonnie was also adopted by the Wiesens. After his adoptive father died of a heart attack in 1955, the nine-year-old Jim, his mother and his sister moved to Beverly Hills, California where he began playing in youth-league baseball. He formally changed his last name upon his mother's marriage to actor Max Palmer in 1956. Showing talent playing American Legion Baseball at the amateur level, upon graduating from Arizona's Scottsdale High School in 1963, Palmer signed a minor-league contract at the age of 18.
Jim's second father, Max Palmer was a character actor and there were two men who shared that name who worked in show business during similar time periods. The Max who was Jim's second dad worked mostly on TV on such programs as Dragnet, Bat Masterson and The Colgate Comedy Hour and was Jewish. The other Max Palmer, often erroneously credited as Jim's father, worked in several movies as a monster. He was 8'2" tall and later became a professional wrestler and eventually a Christian evangelist.
A high-kicking pitcher known for an exceptionally smooth delivery, Palmer picked up his first major-league win on May 16, 1965, beating the Yankees in relief at home. He hit the first of his three career major-league home runs, a two-run shot, in the fourth inning of that game, off Yankees starter Jim Bouton. Palmer finished the season with a 5-4 record.
In 1966, Palmer joined the starting rotation. Baltimore won the pennant behind Frank Robinson's MVP and Triple Crown season. Palmer won his final game, against the Kansas City Athletics, to clinch the AL pennant. In Game 2 of that World Series, at Dodger Stadium, he became the youngest pitcher (20 years, 11 months) to win a complete-game, World Series shutout, defeating the defending world champion Dodgers 6-0. The underdog Orioles swept the series over a Los Angeles team that featured Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen. The shutout was part of a World Series record-setting consecutive shutout innings by Orioles pitchers. The Dodgers' last run was against Moe Drabowsky in the third inning of Game 1. Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally pitched shutouts in the next three games.
During the next two seasons, Palmer struggled with arm injuries. He threw just 49 innings in 1967 and was sent to minor-league rehabilitation. It was in his rehab assignment debut with the Rochester Red Wings in Niagara Falls, New York that Palmer surrendered the only grand slam in his entire professional career which was hit by the Buffalo Bisons' Johnny Bench. Palmer regained his form after undergoing surgery, working in the 1968 Instructional League and playing winter baseball. He had been placed on waivers in September 1968 and was left unprotected for the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft one month later, but was not claimed.
In 1969, Palmer returned healthy, rejoining an Orioles rotation that included 20-game winners Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar. That August 13, Palmer threw a no-hitter against Oakland, just four days after coming off the disabled list. He finished the season with a mark of 16-4, 123 strikeouts, a 2.34 ERA, and .800 winning percentage. The heavily favored Orioles were beaten in the 1969 World Series by the New York Mets with Palmer taking the loss in Game 3.
In 1970, Cuellar went 24-8, McNally 24-9, Palmer 20-10; in 1971 the trio went 20-9, 21-5 and 20-9, respectively, with Pat Dobson going 20-8. Only one other team in MLB history, the 1920 Chicago White Sox, has had four 20-game winners.
Palmer won 21 games in 1972, and went 22-9, 158, 2.40 in 1973, walking off with his first Cy Young Award. His success was interrupted in 1974 when he was downed for eight weeks with elbow problems. Palmer had lost seven games in a row by the time he went on the disabled list on June 20. He was diagnosed with an ulnar nerve injury and orthopedic surgeon Robert Kerlan prescribed rest, hot and cold water therapy and medication. Surgery was considered, but Palmer's pain lessened and he was able to return to play in August. He finished 7-12.
Palmer was at his peak again in 1975, winning 23 games, throwing 10 shutouts (allowing just 44 hits in those games), and fashioning a 2.09 ERA--all tops in the American League. He completed 25 games, even saved one, and limited opposing hitters to a .216 batting average. Palmer won his second Cy Young Award, and repeated his feat in 1976 (22-13, 2.51). During the latter year, he won the first of four consecutive Gold Glove Awards. (Jim Kaat, who had won the award 14 years in a row, moved to the National League, where he won the award that year and in 1977.)
In 1977-78, Palmer won 20 and 21 games. During the period spanning 1970 to 1978, Palmer had won 20 games in every season except for 1974. During those eight 20-win seasons, he pitched between 274 1/3 and 319 innings per year, leading the league in innings pitched four times. During that span, he threw between 17 and 25 complete games each year.
Over the next six seasons, Palmer was hampered by arm fatigue and myriad minor injuries. Even so, he brought a stabilizing veteran presence to the pitching staff. His final major-league victory was noteworthy: pitching in relief of Mike Flanagan in the third game of the 1983 World Series, he faced the Phillies' celebrity-studded batting order and gave up no runs in a close Oriole win.
The 17 years between Palmer's first World Series win in 1966 and the 1983 win is the longest period of time between first and last pitching victories in the World Series for an individual pitcher in major league history. He also became the only pitcher in major league baseball history to have won World Series games in three decades. Also, Palmer became the only player in Orioles history to appear in all six (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979, 1983) of their World Series appearances to date.
Palmer was the only Orioles player on the 1983 championship team to have previously won a World Series. He retired after being released by Baltimore during the 1984 season. Palmer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, his first year of eligibility.
While still an active player, Palmer did color commentary for ABC for their coverage of the 1978, 1980 and 1982 American League Championship Series, 1981 American League Division Series between Oakland and Kansas City, and the 1981 World Series.
From 1985 to 1989, Palmer formed an announcing team with Al Michaels and Tim McCarver at ABC. Palmer announced the 1985 World Series, where he was supposed to team with Michaels and Howard Cosell, whom Palmer had worked with on the previous year's ALCS. McCarver replaced Cosell for the World Series at the last minute after Cosell released a book (I Never Played the Game) that was critical of the ABC Sports team. The team of Palmer, Michaels and McCarver would subsequently go on to call the 1986 All-Star Game (that year, Palmer worked with Michaels on the ALCS while McCarver teamed with Keith Jackson on ABC's coverage of the National League Championship Series), the 1987 World Series, and 1988 All-Star Game as well as that year's NLCS.
Palmer was present at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit prior to Game 3 of the World Series. After the 1989 season, ABC lost its contract to broadcast baseball to CBS. Palmer had earned $350,000 from ABC that year for appearing on around ten regular season broadcasts and making a few postseason appearances.
In 1990, the Los Angeles Times reported that Palmer was thinking of pursuing work as a major league manager. Instead, Palmer worked as an analyst for ESPN and as a broadcaster for Orioles games on their local telecasts over WMAR-TV and Home Team Sports.
In 1991, Palmer attempted a comeback with the Orioles. Palmer said that he wanted to make sure that he had not retired too early. ESPN, which was trying to cut expenses, had asked him to take a pay cut and to sign a three-year contract. Palmer said he would sign a one-year contract for less pay, but ESPN refused. "I wouldn't be here today if the broadcasting climate had been more to my liking. That was really my prime motivation, the fact that I no longer had that obligation", Palmer said during spring training.
Covering Palmer's spring training workouts, Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated said that Palmer's comeback was not entirely about money. He wrote that "it is fair to suspect that a certain vanity is involved." Hoffer said that Palmer "has failed to excite either ridicule or astonishment. He's in fabulous condition, no question. But no matter whom he lines up with on the row of practice mounds, there is more pop in the gloves of catchers other than his."
While working out at the University of Miami during his comeback attempt, Palmer was approached by Miami assistant coach Lazaro Collazo. Collazo reportedly told him, "You'll never get into the Hall of Fame with those mechanics." "I'm already in the Hall of Fame", Palmer replied. To help Palmer's pitching motion, Collazo and Palmer completed unusual drills that involved Palmer placing a knee or foot on a chair as he tossed the ball.
After giving up five hits and two runs in two innings of a spring training game, he retired permanently. Palmer said that he tore his hamstring while warming up for the game, commenting, "I'm not saying I wouldn't like to continue, but I can't", he said. "I heard something pop in my leg yesterday. It wasn't a nice sound. I don't know what that means, but I think it's going to play havoc with my tennis game." He retired with a 268-152 win-loss record and a 2.86 ERA.
From 1994 to 1995, Palmer returned to ABC (this time, via a revenue sharing joint venture between Major League Baseball, ABC and NBC called The Baseball Network) to once again broadcast with Tim McCarver and Al Michaels. In 1995, the reunited team of Palmer, McCarver and Michaels would call the All-Star Game, Game 3 of that NLDS between Cincinnati and Los Angeles, Game 4 of the NLDS between Atlanta and Colorado, Games 1-2 of the NLCS, and Games 1, 4-5 of the World Series. Palmer, McCarver and Michaels were also intended to call the previous year's World Series for ABC, but were denied the opportunity when the entire postseason was canceled due to a strike. He is currently a color commentator on MASN's television broadcasts of Oriole games.
In July 2012, Palmer put up for auction his three Cy Young Award trophies and two of his four Gold Glove Awards. "At this point in my life, I would rather concern myself with the education of my grandchildren", he said. Palmer also noted that his autistic teenage stepson would require special care and that "my priorities have changed." Palmer had put up for auction one of his Cy Young Award trophies on behalf of a fundraising event for cystic fibrosis in years past, although he stated the winning bidder "had paid $39,000 for that and never ever took it. It was for the cause."
Palmer has been considered one of the best pitchers in major-league history.[by whom?] Palmer is the only pitcher in big-league history to win World Series games in three decades (1960s, 1970s, and 1980s). During his 19-year major league career of 575 games (including 17 postseason games), he never surrendered a grand slam, nor did he ever allow back-to-back homers. Palmer's career earned run average (2.856) is the third lowest among starting pitchers whose careers began after the advent of the live-ball era in 1920. In six ALCS and six World Series, he posted an 8-3 record with 90 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.61 and two shutouts in 17 games.
He was a mainstay in the rotation during Baltimore's six pennant-winning teams in the 1960s (1966 & 1969), 1970s (1970, 1971 and 1979) and 1980s (1983). With the passing of Mike Cuellar in 2010, Palmer became the last surviving member of the 1971 Baltimore starting rotation that included four 20-game winners. Palmer won spots on six All-Star teams, received four Gold Glove Awards and won three Cy Young Awards. He led the league in ERA twice and in wins three times.
During the late 1970s, Palmer was a spokesman and underwear model for Jockey brand men's briefs. He appeared in the company's national print and television advertisements as well as on billboards at Times Square in New York City and other major cities. He donated all proceeds from the sale of his underwear poster to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
From 1992 until 1999, he was frequently seen on television throughout the United States in commercials for The Money Store, a national home equity and mortgage lender. He has periodically appeared in ads and commercials for vitamins and other health-related products. Palmer also represents Cosamin DS, a joint health supplement made by Nutramax Laboratories in Edgewood, Maryland.
He was also the spokesperson for Nationwide Motors Corp., which is a regional chain of car dealerships located in the Middle Atlantic region. He is currently a spokesman for the national "Strike Out High Cholesterol" campaign. Additionally, Palmer serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro League players through financial and medical difficulties.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1963, Palmer married the former Susan Ryan in 1964. He has two daughters with Ryan, named Jamie and Kelly.
In 2007, Palmer married the former Susan Earle, who has an adult son with autism. The Palmers have homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and in Corona Del Mar, California. In 2006, Palmer also acquired a penthouse condominium in Little Italy, Baltimore, which he uses while in Baltimore for Orioles' broadcasts.