4:28 p.m. Palmeiro sits at his locker and goes through clothing, occasionally glancing at the big-screen television, which shows the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game. You wonder what's going through his mind on a night that could very well end in legend. Is it something as obvious as, "Will I get the hit tonight?" or is it something more random like, "Did I remember to replace the kitchen garbage bag?" One will never know.
4:32 p.m. Palmeiro's sons, Preston and Patrick, sit down by the TV. They're not talking to Dad right now. Nobody's talking to Dad, actually. Maybe they're all afraid to jinx him on what could be his big night.
5:23 p.m. Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli meets with the media in the Baltimore dugout and is asked if his team is being distracted by all the attention being paid to Palmeiro's chase for 3,000. He shakes his head calmly. "It hasn't been like that at all," Mazzilli says. "If anything, I think it's good for young guys to see what it's like with all of the media around. And it's fun for them. They're involved with something that they've never experienced before. It's a piece of baseball history."
6:20 p.m. The clubhouse closes to the media, meaning Palmeiro has made it through a day without a pregame press conference. Interesting...
7:07 p.m. Mariners right-hander Joel Pineiro throws the first pitch of the game to Brian Roberts and there's a few flashbulbs popping, but there are plenty of empty seats in the house, particularly in the upper deck in right field. In other words, this doesn't even begin to approach the electricity of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa-chasing Roger Maris nights of 1998 or the so-called Roger Clemens "retirement" of 2003. But that's just typical under-the-radar Palmeiro: the quietest 566 homers and 2,999 career hits you'll ever see.
7:13 p.m. At-bat No. 1. Palmeiro gets his first at-bat with the Orioles already up, 1-0, on a Melvin Mora home run. He battles to a 3-and-1 count, and like on the previous night, the fans are starting to sense that Palmeiro might get walked, so they start booing Pineiro quite loudly.
7:14 p.m. Pineiro overthrows and hits the ground with a fastball for ball four. Palmeiro trots to first base as the crowd lets Pineiro have it.
7:55 p.m. At-bat No. 2. Pineiro fires a first-pitch fastball right down the middle, 91 mph. Strike one. Palmeiro gets set again, and Pineiro throws an almost identical pitch. Palmeiro swings and hits a weak ground ball right at first baseman Richie Sexson for the first out.
8:24 p.m. At-bat No. 3. There's a nice round of applause for Palmeiro as the TV shows the last four players to reach 3,000 hits: Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn. Boggs is already in the Hall of Fame, the rest of them on their way. Melvin Mora is on second base after hitting a double. There's one out.
Flashbulbs go crazy as Palmeiro swings early and jerks a hot line drive down the right-field line. There's a gasp from the crowd, but it's clearly foul. Strike one.
8:25 p.m. Palmeiro is fooled on the next pitch, an 82 mph curveball, and swings and misses. But he fights back, taking a 92 mph fastball outside for a 1-and-2 count.
8:26 p.m. Palmeiro looks at a low breaking ball, evening the count at 2-and-2.
The next pitch is a cookie, right down the middle, and Palmeiro doesn't miss it. He unfurls that legendary, smooth left-handed swing and drops the head of the bat on the ball. It's a fly with some scream to it that's ambling for the left-field corner. The only question is if it's fair or foul.
It's fair. No. 25 of the Orioles has become No. 26 in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits.
The ball hops up on the warning-track dirt, caroms off the top of the tall wall, and is fielded by Chris Snelling, who throws to second base, but not in time. Palmeiro's 3,000th hit is an RBI double.
Almost 19 years after his first big-league hit -- an opposite-field RBI single off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tom Hume on Sept. 8, 1986, at Wrigley Field -- Palmeiro has reached his 3,000th.
Palmeiro steps on second base, and by that time everyone in Safeco Field is standing and applauding. The Orioles are now standing in front of the dugout doing the same. Mora scores and then goes right back to second base to congratulate Palmeiro. The umpires stop the game.
8:27 p.m. Team leader Miguel Tejada sees what's going on and waves his hand for all the Orioles to follow him out to second base. They oblige, as do the pitchers from the bullpen and Palmeiro's boys.
8:28 p.m. Tejada hugs Palmeiro and the team his sons mob him soon afterward. Even Sexson slips in a few claps while the Mariners look on from their positions and dugout. The scoreboard reads, "Congratulations Rafael Palmeiro: 3,000th career hit." The crowd is still on its feet. Everyone's hugging by second base.
8:29 p.m. The team is back in the dugout, and Palmeiro, alone on second base again, tips his helmet to the crows. More wild applause.
8:30 p.m. Play resumes and so does the Orioles' domination of Seattle, as Palmeiro scores on a Jay Gibbons RBI double.
8:32 p.m. Palmeiro is caught on TV with his head buried in a towel in the dugout. Is he crying? Could be.
8:56 p.m. Word comes over from Oakland that A's lefty Barry Zito's no-hitter was broken up with one out in the eighth inning when Texas Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench homered, thereby ensuring that Mench's old Texas teammate Raffy wouldn't get overshadowed in the news.
9:15 p.m. At-bat No. 4. After a three-minute at-bat that gets him to a full count, Palmeiro rips a single to center field off Mariners reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Palmeiro passes Roberto Clemente for 25th on the all-time hit list with 3,001.
9:58 p.m. Palmeiro strikes out looking against Ron Villone, finishing the night 2-for-4 with an RBI.
10:10 p.m. The final out is recorded and the Orioles win, 6-3, so it's a good night for Raffy and his team, who are ahead of the Yankees.
10:17 p.m. Palmeiro finishes his on-field TV interviews and enters the Orioles clubhouse, where Mazzilli has something special planned. A bottle of Domaine Ste. Michelle champagne has been placed in every locker and the Orioles skipper has prepared a toast.
10:20 p.m. Mazzilli meets with the Orioles media. "It was great," Mazzilli says. "You saw history made tonight. I am glad he could do it in the Oriole uniform. He looked like he was ready to go in tears. Obviously he was overwhelmed, especially to have his boys out there with him. It was a special time. ... He handled it great, like a Hall of Famer would. We had a little toast. I told him how proud I was with the way he handled himself and the way he went about it."
10:22 p.m. In the Mariners' locker room, Pineiro talks about being associated with the moment. "My name will be in Cooperstown, I'll tell you that," Pineiro said. "He's a great guy, I know him a little bit and he's going to the Hall of Fame. He's not like one of those guys who is stuck up. He's had a great career and deserves this. He's putting icing on the cake, and if I have to give up a 3,000th to someone, I don't want to give it up, but I don't mind giving it up to him. "
10:28 p.m. Palmeiro enters the big interview room, where a white screen with the Orioles logo stamped on it has been placed in front of the usual Mariners background -- a class move by the Seattle organization. He says he's thankful that his wife and two sons and brother and sister-in-law were able to witness the big hit in person, and that he really appreciated the Mariners fans and their baseball knowledge and display of affection for him.
He says he knew the 3,000th hit was fair when he hit it but felt numb while rounding first base and didn't remember much about the moment after that.
Then Palmeiro says the things that make him the team player he's always been.
"I've never played this game for the fanfare or for the attention," he says. "I just love to play this game."
Palmeiro finishes by saying that the most important thing about the hit was the fact that it drove in a run during an Orioles victory.
"That's the thing we wanted to do," he says. "We wanted to win the game."
He's asked what he's going to do with the rest of his night at the hotel with his family, and his response is vintage Raffy.
"I'm gonna go get my rest," he says. "We have another game tomorrow."
10:39 p.m. Over at Sammy Sosa's locker, the Orioles' other 500-homer man weighs in with his opinion on the events of the night. "That's a huge accomplishment," Sosa says. "I feel very happy for him. He's a great guy and a great hitter. I mean, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs. These are incredible milestones. It's something not many people in history could do."
10:45 p.m. Palmeiro has already gone back to the hotel to rest his 40-year-old bones for the night, but Melvin Mora reveals what Palmeiro told the team during the toast, and it's a fitting capper for the evening.
"He said, 'Let's win the division so my 3,000th hit will mean something,'" Mora says.
"'Let's make it count.'"