August 2, 2005
Thanks For The Memories
I have very clear memories of just about all the Hall of Fame sluggers in baseball’s 500 home run club who’ve played over the last 40 years.
I remember the Braves’ Henry Aaron snapping a line drive homer into the left field bleachers off Sandy Koufax way back in 1966. I saw Willie Mays – back in San Francisco after being traded to the Mets – hit a line drive that cut through the cold air of Candlestick Park and disappear into the darkness in 1972.
I remember not minding that the Phillies’ Mike Schmidt ripped a 1st inning home run against the Dodgers one night in the late 70’s; after all, he hit ‘em off everyone anyway, so you might as well mark down a Schmidt home run in the scorebook before the game even starts and just go from there.
Willie McCovey’s twisting line drive homer that looked like it was headed to me in the upper deck at Candlestick in 1977 … Eddie Murray’s three-homer night in Anaheim in 1985 (after #2, I yelled “Hit another one, Eddie, so I can go home!” and he did and I did) … a lazy fly ball by Ernie Banks that just kept going until it landed in the pavilion at Dodger Stadium in 1970 … a Frank Robinson opposite field shot for the Dodgers in 1972 …
Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew didn’t hit home runs when I was in the stands (although I remember a Freeway Series line drive shot from Reggie), but I have very clear memories of them hitting long blasts on TV.
That’s why I’m so surprised that until today, I had no clear memory of Rafael Palmeiro doing anything.
Does he rock the bat back and forth like McCovey did? Swing from the heels like Willie Mays? Are his home runs long blasts like Schmidt’s, or compact line drives like Aaron’s? Does he hustle around the bases like Killebrew did after he launched a home run? Or does he admire his work like Reggie? Does he slide hard like Frank Robinson? Brighten the day like Ernie Banks?
I couldn’t tell you. But after today’s announcement that he’ll be suspended for ten days for violating baseball’s steroid policy, I CAN tell you the one clear memory I now have of Rafael Palmeiro doing something.
I have a clear memory of him saying he “never intentionally” used steroids.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe Palmeiro really DOESN’T know what’s in the nutritional supplements he takes. It seems irresponsible and potentially dangerous, but maybe that’s the way he is.
And maybe there’s a simple explanation for why Palmeiro hit only one home run for every 34 at bats during his first seven seasons in the majors, then hit one every 15 at bats after that. Maybe it has nothing to do with steroids and everything to do with just getting better … even though every hitter with 500 home runs showed flashes of huge power much earlier in their careers.
So now I have my memory of Rafael Palmeiro. It’s not much, but it’s important to me. After all, it let me remember all those other players … the ones who always intentionally played baseball with honest effort and great skill.
Posted by Nick Roman at 3:26 AM
That's a wonderful article. I have to admit, a couple of weeks ago I was on the Palmeiro bandwagon and blogged that 3k hits and 500+ homeruns were a lock for the Hall of Fame. However, after today I just don't know what to think; about Palmeiro, the Hall, his testimony, etc and I just posted a blog asking that very thing? I gotta admit, when MLB first introduced their "tougher" standards, I was skeptical but it seems that they are indeed working and they just caught a very big fish. Great Blog!
Posted by: Kevin J. O'Leary on August 2, 2005 4:14 AM
None other than Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy, makes a very similar point. Which is that there are some star players who touch us and reach us on a personal level, and then there are players who -- despite gaudy numbers and heroic statistics -- never reach that level. Simmons called it the 'Pantheon.' Fittingly enough for the news from the Orioles and Palmeiro, Simmons pointed to Cal Ripken as the prototype of the star player who just could not reach the 'Pantheon.' Ripken may have saved baseball after the strike, but just as one can't remember a Palmeiro moment, neither was their an athletic moment that will leave Ripken etched in one's mind (running the outfield after breaking Lou Gehrig's record being a feat of an entirely different sort).
Posted by: Ethan Lindsey on August 2, 2005 4:51 AM
As far as I'm concerned Palmiero was never a Hall of Fame player, if for no other reason than that which Nick laid out at the start of his post: he's just a forgettable guy with zero personality and zero contribution to the game aside from putting up impressive numbers. Most people had already forgotten about his recent milestone by the time the news came through yesterday that he was caught on the juice.
While baseball as a sport is more number-crazed than any other that I know of, it seems that there is also a precendent that you have to leave behind some sort of legacy that has a positive impact on the game. If it were really just about numbers then Pete Rose would have been inducted years ago.
What I really want to know is who his agent hired to handle the crisis PR. You've gotta think that it's someone with some experience in the Bush Administration. Where else could you find such inspiration to come up with a gem like, "I never INTENTIONALLY used steriods." That's right up there with "weapons of mass destruction related program activities", and the more recent "struggle against global extremism".
The fact is Palmiero is getting off easy. He's only getting a 10 day suspension after lying to the public and Congress and then lying again. An article from tomorrow's NY times leaks the exact steriod that he tested positive for and is not included in any type of supplement whatsoever. He's a cheat and a liar and should be suspended for the rest of the season.
The sad part of all of this is that the whole incident will be forgotten by the public before long...just like 99% of his career.
Posted by: njtrojan on August 3, 2005 5:06 AM