Once Palmeiro was in the majors, he remained in the shadow of teammates: Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg in Chicago; Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez in Texas; and Cal Ripken and Miguel Tejada in Baltimore.
Critics of Palmeiro point out
that he didn't dominate for a
significant period (one top-five
finish in Most Valuable Player
voting); he made four All-Star
teams and never was voted in as
a starter by the fans, often losing
out to Mark McGwire, Frank
Thomas or Mo Vaughn.
World Series. He isn't a rah-rah
player. And his profile isn't particularly
"I don't think too many people
would recognize him as
Raffy Palmeiro," Hendricks said.
"In fact, he's probably better
known for his Viagra commercial
than he is as a player, and
that's pitiful. It's pitiful for as
much as he has done and he has
Yet those who've played with
and against Palmeiro say he has
made an undeniable mark on
the game. Former Orioles teammate
Mike Mussina said the
lack of limelight doesn't lessen
his "tremendous career." Houston
Astros second baseman
Craig Biggio calls him a "firstballot
Hall of Famer, no doubt."
And the New York Yankees' Jason
Giambi said a generation of
first basemen have patterned
themselves after Palmeiro offensively
"To me, that means more
than any All-Star Game or any
publicity along the way I may
have gotten," Palmeiro said. "To
me, when an opponent says,
'He's the player I kind of patterned
myself after,' that is the
ultimate compliment, above
Climbing the lists
"Reggie Jackson. Dude, you
just tied Reggie Jackson!"
Palmeiro is pitching batting
practice to son Patrick in late
June when Jeff Brantley, an
ESPN analyst and Palmeiro's
former Mississippi State teammate,
rushes over and gushes.
One by one, Palmeiro is catching
legends on all-time lists, including
Jackson, who was sitting
alone in ninth place, with 563
home runs, before Palmeiro tied
and passed him.
"I know, man," Palmeiro says
The embarrassment isn't
staged. Palmeiro, inherently reserved,
may be as surprised as
anyone that he is now the fourth
member of the historic 3,000-hit,
"I never imagined that I could
be in a category with Willie Mays
and Hank Aaron and Eddie
Murray," Palmeiro said. "Who
would ever think that? Not me.
But here I am knocking at the
Palmeiro has come a long way,
Brantley said, since he was a
sensitive freshman being ribbed
for wearing "some kind of polyester
leisure suit" on campus.
But his attitude toward baseball
hasn't changed in two decades.
"He's a guy that's grown up always
having the idea that he has
to prove himself," Brantley said.
"I think that came from his
dad's influence on him when he
The end is nearing after 20
"This could be my last year.
It's been a long career," Palmeiro
said. "I've got other things I
have planned out for myself beyond
His family wants to take a
non-baseball vacation, maybe to
Italy to see amazing architecture
and eat good food. He
wants a more normal life.
But Brantley told Palmeiro
that he owes it to himself, his
family and the game to try for
600 homers. And Lynne Palmeiro
said she'd discuss retirement
more in-depth with her
husband this offseason.
Palmeiro would like to play in
a World Series, but individually
his goals are met. No more proof
is needed. Not to the media and
not to his proud father.
Baseball, and life, have come
Patrick and Preston, 10, play
organized baseball in suburban
Dallas, where the Palmeiros
make their offseason, in-school
home. In the summers, the family
joins Palmeiro in Baltimore
and is a frequent presence at
The boys watch their father
closely. They are learning how to
execute a perfect swing. They
know that squeezing tennis
balls will strengthen their
And, just like their father before
them, they believe there is
only one person who can teach
them the sport properly -- as
lovingly but maybe not as
sternly -- as it was done 30 years
ago in Miami.
"No matter how good their
coach is," Lynne Palmeiro said,
"of course, it is not as good as
From Sunday's Sun
A strong work ethic and a sweet swing -- both instilled by his father -- have helped Rafael Palmeiro join one of the most exclusive groups in baseball.
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