Orioles unveil statue honoring Palmer's career

Orioles unveil statue honoring Palmer's career

Orioles unveil statue honoring Palmer's career
BALTIMORE -- Jim Palmer posted some staggering numbers during his 19-year Oriole career. He won 268 games, earned three Cy Young Awards, finished eight seasons with at least 20 wins and made it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

But when the team revealed a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Palmer at Oriole Park before Saturday's game as part of the Orioles Legends Celebration Series, the former right-hander made one point clear several times -- he didn't find this success alone.

"To me, the theme of all these statues is not about what I did, because I wouldn't have won Cy Young Awards, and I wouldn't have been in the World Series, wouldn't have won the Gold Gloves or had the chance to be in all the playoffs if I didn't have teammates," Palmer said. "I did my job. We were winning because of us -- and it's always about us."

And the "us" came in different forms. Palmer touched on a number of different subjects in this area when speaking at the ceremony and then again to the media a short time later.

He talked a lot about how much Cal Ripken, Sr. meant to him as a Minor-League coach and manager. Palmer mentioned how Robin Roberts mentored him during his early days with the Orioles even though the veteran knew this kid could have an effect on his job.

There also was how Palmer pitched with so many good hurlers in both the Minors and Majors -- and how the big right-hander learned from all of them.

"That's what our organization was always about, tremendous continuity," Palmer said. "We just had really special people -- you have to understand. "

Several of those people came to Oriole Park for the ceremony. The crowd that came for the unveiling just under two hours before the first pitch gave loud ovations to several of the formal Orioles and an especially loud roar to Brooks Robinson.

The Hall of Fame third baseman has been battling some health issues recently, and his statue is going to be unveiled on Sept. 29. There's no doubt the crowd loved to see him, and Robinson clearly enjoyed Palmer getting this honor.

"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."

Eddie Murray (Aug. 11) and Cal Ripken, Jr. (Sept. 6) were the other two former Orioles who were in attendance that are getting their own statues. Earl Weaver, who recently saw his own statue revealed, was there also and complimented Palmer for how much he meant to the Orioles during his days as manager.

"I always told [young pitchers], 'If you want to be successful, do everything that No. 22 does,'" Weaver said. "I was very fortunate to have had him on the team all those years, and a lot of my success was due to him."

Palmer has been one of the team's TV analysts for 17 years and still hopes for better days for his old ballclub. He's still connected to the team, often talks to various players and gives out advice, and that's probably why guys like manager Buck Showalter and All-Stars Adam Jones, Jim Johnson and others showed up to watch.

Palmer understands what it's like to be a young pitcher in the Major Leagues. He first came to the Orioles in 1965 as a 19-year-old and later gained some fame the next year by beating Sandy Koufax in Game 2 of the World Series in what would be that famous lefty's final game ever.

In addition, he became the only pitcher to win a World Series game in three different decades (60's, 70's, 80's) and anchored the Oriole starters during the 70's. Palmer won 176 games in that decade.

"In short, Jim Palmer was the pitcher of [that] decade," said Louis Angelos, ownership representative. "From a 19-year-old prodigy ... Jim soon became not only a perennial 20-game winner, but the mainstay of the great Oriole starting staff of the 70's and the embodiment of pitching excellence."

The players Palmer played with knew that also. Fans would often watch the smooth, high leg kick Palmer would show on every pitch -- that's what the statue replicates -- and opposing players couldn't do much with it. He just wanted to win and kept getting better, and that's a dangerous combination.

"Jim was such a smart pitcher, and he was super-competitive," said Cal Ripken, Jr. "He was a great all-around athlete and on the mound he was a terrific finisher and workhorse. When you think of all of the great pitchers in Oriole history, you first think of Jim."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.