Quitting with style


Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, the 45-year-old Hall of Famer who bucked convention to make a comeback after six seasons away from the game, sadly acknowledged yesterday that it's just not in the cards.

After two disastrous innings against the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game Monday, Palmer conceded yesterday that he had gotten a severe hamstring injury in practice, and he just won't be able to carry on. It's easy to admire his decision, given the physical punishment an athlete of any age must endure in training, and the ridicule so often meted out by fair-weather fans to those who insist on learning the hard way it's time to quit.

Palmer had a lot of people rooting for him who thought they saw in his improbable comeback a universal metaphor for renewal. After all, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters one more time when he was approaching 50. If Jim Palmer could do it, by God, so could they. Maybe the realization that his fans needed him to pull it off for the sake of their own self-esteem as much as for his made ending it all so tough.

Palmer made his point. He is a champ, not a quitter. Now he just doesn't have to prove it anymore, not even to himself.

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