Archive for the ‘Jim Palmer’ Category

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Jim Palmer

February 6, 2018

Jim Palmer

My brother met me at the Asheville airport three Saturdays ago and told me our dad wasn’t going to wake up. We were standing at the back of his running car, breathing in the exhaust. I cried for about as long as it takes to sneeze and my brother put his arm around me and I stopped crying and I haven’t cried since. It was late. We drove to the hospital in the dark and walked past an ER waiting room packed with people coughing into surgical masks and we looked at him on a bed in a brightly lit room full of machinery and tubes. I touched his hand and his leg moved. It was an involuntary thing. The stroke had wiped his magnificent mind clean in the time it takes to sneeze. He was moved to intensive care that night and in the morning a doctor met with us and assured us that the clear choice now was to “move toward comfort.” Maybe I’ll write more about the rest of it later, the last hours, the last breaths snoring out of him, his thin chest rising and falling. I don’t want to get into it right now. The next days, in a kind of trance, I cleaned his room like someone possessed, clearing out the clutter and litter and straightening up his beloved books and excavating diplomas and papers and military records and several pairs of his glasses, which I laid out on his shelves as if to make them available for him should he come back and need to see something more clearly. After a week I flew home, walked into my house and was dazzled by the beauty of my wife and young children, but still I didn’t cry. I went back to work and for a few days it was like carrying a backpack jammed with broken chunks of concrete but gradually the weight seemed to go away, which is somehow worse. So now every night when I’m done with work and the kids are in bed I look at the Jim Palmer card on the top of the stack of cards that I pulled from my box of cards at the beginning of 2018. My intention was to make my way through the year one card at a time. I’m stumped now: can’t cry, can’t write, can’t make it past Jim Palmer. Jim Palmer! When Jim Palmer was born in 1945, my dad was already a man, at least according to the U.S. Navy, which had him among its ranks by that time. Jim Palmer was born in New York City, same as my father, and was adopted at birth by a wealthy Jewish man named Moe Wiesen and his wife, Polly. Moe died when Jim was 9, and Polly remarried a man named Max Palmer. My father was working in advertising by then, in research. His crowning achievement in that field, which he left not long after a young Jim Wiesen, beginning to distinguish himself as an athlete in youth ball, decided he wanted to have the same last name as his stepfather, was an interview-based analysis of the brassiere market. I found it in his belongings. It had the interview questions he asked the subjects about brassiere fit and comfort and appeal, along with statistical analyses of the data. Jim Palmer also had a sojourn in the land of undergarments during his career. That was in the 1970s, when Palmer was considered the best pitcher in the American League as well as the most handsome and became a model of Jockey underwear. By then my father was on his own after a short stint as a man dazzled by the beauty of his wife and young children. After that stint, perhaps the happiest days of his life, his family moved to Vermont and he moved into a small studio apartment in New York City. My father didn’t wear Jockey underwear. When my brother and I visited him in New York City in the summers in the 1970s we would all sleep together on foam mats on the floor of his apartment, and at bedtime our father would lurch around in his boxer shorts. My brother and I didn’t wear boxer shorts. Jim Palmer didn’t wear boxer shorts. But our father the sociologist wore boxer shorts, more evidence somehow that he was beyond our understanding.  Eventually he would turn out the light on his desk and the apartment would go dark except for the lights of the city seeping in through the one window. The sounds of the city would also drift up to us six stories high, the traffic, the sirens, the kinds of sounds that are presented in movies as a signifier of loneliness and vulnerability in the big city, but to me those sounds have always felt like safety. I hear those sounds and I am lying in the dark near my unfathomable father, and I’m so close I can hear him breathing.

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Jim Palmer

March 17, 2008
  
My first roommate, besides my brother, was a pimply kid from Baltimore. I got assigned to him randomly when I went away to boarding school. I was fifteen. He was into computers. In fact, he had somehow built his own computer. This was in 1983, so he was ahead of the curve on that one. He didn’t have any posters but covered his walls with random things from his life. I never looked too closely, but I remember a broken calculator as being one of the things hanging on his wall. There were papers, notes, drawings, scraps from magazines. He was a smart kid, a dweeb. He played Dungeons and Dragons. Like many of the dweebs, he was simultaneously awkward and arrogant, and he had a weird but OK-looking girlfriend. We got along pretty well. He drank a Coke before going to sleep every night, claiming that it always knocked him out. He was the only Jethro Tull fan I’ve ever known. He was a rich kid, I guess. I’ve always figured that he went on to make a lot of money in computers. His mother dated Jim Palmer for a while and he and Jim Palmer once played racquetball.

Jim Palmer reached the major leagues at age 19 and capped his first full major league season the following year by ruining Sandy Koufax’s final game, beating Koufax 6-0 in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series. Palmer had not yet turned 21. He spent most of the next two years injured or in the minors, the Orioles not able to contend without him, and when he came back to stay in 1969 the Orioles won three straight American League pennants. So in Palmer’s first four full seasons in the majors, his team won four American League pennants and two World Series titles. Though things slowed down a little after that, he still was able to add four more division titles, two more pennants, and one more World Series ring to a trophy case that also included three Cy Young awards. In addition, he racked up more wins in the 1970s than any other pitcher.

I’m tired, timid, empty. It took me a long time to get out of bed. Unwrap each day like a precious gift, I thought to myself as I lay there under the blankets, unable to move. I guess later I’ll go buy a paper and scrutinize the NCAA basketball bracket. So far today I’ve written in my notebook, listened to sports radio, eaten some saltines, and tried to figure out which World Series game included the most Hall of Famers. I started investigating the subject after seeing that Jim Palmer won a game in relief against the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1983 World Series. The losing pitcher, Steve Carlton, is a Hall of Famer, as are three of his Phillies teammates (Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Mike Schmidt) and two of Palmer’s fellow Orioles (Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray). Since obvious Hall of Fame-caliber player Pete Rose also pinch-hit in that game for the Phillies, I gave the game a total score of 7* with the asterisk standing for Rose, and then started scanning through likely contenders on the baseball-reference.com postseason index. I eventually found a World Series game that featured nine Hall of Famers (plus an additional Hall of Famer if you count managers). I feel fairly confident that this is the record (author update: it’s not), but my search was inexhaustive and reliant on hunches, so please correct me if I’m wrong (author update: someone did; see comments). But let’s just say I’m right. Can you name the year and the teams and Hall of Famers involved?

Finally, to end this lackadaisical meander of a post, let me again throw out the trivia question from a comment I attached the last post, copying it from the back of Bob Coluccio’s card (“Which pitcher sang National Anthem at ’73 World Series?”). Hint: the player once contributed to a World Series defeat of Jim Palmer’s Orioles and then later wrapped up his career as Palmer’s teammate.