The pose was pure Jim Palmer. The ceremony to unveil his sculpture, as you might expect, was pitch perfect.
Palmer became the third Orioles great to be immortalized in bronze and put on display in the Garden of Greats behind center field at Camden Yards on Saturday afternoon, joining Frank Robinson and Earl Weaver and awaiting the arrival of Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson later this season.
It was a special day made even more special by the surprise appearance of Brooks, who has been in ill health and had to postpone his own statue unveiling until late September while he continues to regain his strength.
Clearly, Palmer was touched by what he called "the ultimate gesture" from Robinson and also by the big turnout of friends, family, fans and former teammates who crowded the plaza that will house all six statues.
"To me the theme of all these statues is not about what I did,'' he said, "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. ... I think one of the greatest things is Earl managed only in an Oriole uniform, Brooks played only in an Oriole uniform, Cal played only in an Oriole uniform and I never played in any other uniform but the Orioles'."
Palmer spent most of his speech honoring all the people who helped him become the greatest pitcher in Orioles history, and — as the only pitcher to have his number retired by the team — declared that his 7-foot bronze statue represents all the other great hurlers who helped him forge a golden era of Orioles pitching.
"The statue to me is symbolic of ... I was the greatest Orioles pitcher, but we had a lot of other great pitchers,'' Palmer said. "Go look at Mike Cuellar's numbers. They're just phenomenal. So, for a period of time, I wasn't the best pitcher. I wasn't the best pitcher when Cuellar and [Dave] McNally were winning 23 and 24 games. I was real good and maybe had lower ERAs, but we had really accomplished guys.
"The fact that Robin Roberts took the time to mentor me, even though he probably knew I was going to take his job, taught me what I was able to do with Flanny and [Scott] McGregor and [Mike] Boddicker and Storm Davis and people down the road. And that was what our organization was always about. Tremendous continuity. We just had really special people."
Maybe Palmer wasn't pointing out anything that the crowd and his friends in the VIP section didn't already know, but nobody minded hearing it all again. The Orioles were once among the most successful franchises in the major leagues, and they were able to maintain a very high level of success because of their great emphasis on organizational pitching and overall player development.
"I had a chance to pitch with staffs that had three 20-game winners and four 20-game winners,'' he said. "People don't understand how easy that made it to pitch. I really knew that if I didn't win on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday that one of these guys was going to pick me up."
The Legends Celebration Series was intended to tap into fan nostalgia for the franchise's glory days during this, the 20th anniversary season at Camden Yards, and each of the first three unveilings have struck just the right sentimental chords. This one was particularly poignant, because Palmer has been closely affiliated with the Orioles in some capacity for nearly a half century.
He first signed with the Orioles in 1963 and was pitching in the World Series three years later against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He holds the distinction of defeating Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in the Dodger great's final game and is the only player to have been a member of all six Orioles World Series teams.
When his playing career ended, he moved into a long career as a broadcaster and remains a fan favorite as the primary color commentator for Orioles telecasts on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
"What is most enduring is Jim's loyalty,'' said Louis Angelos, who represented Orioles ownership at the ceremony, "how much he cares about the Orioles and how much he cares about baseball."
That sentiment certainly applies to all six of the Orioles legends who are being immortalized in bronze this season.
"These are the greatest players and manager in the history of this team,'' said fellow Oriole-turned-broadcaster Ken Singleton. "And there's a reason why they not only have statues here, but have plaques in Cooperstown as well."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck in his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" on baltimoresun.com and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and wbal.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun