The lanky build, the graceful delivery featuring full arm extension, the regular-season consistency and the postseason toughness.
Jim Palmer owned seemingly every gift a pitcher could possess, which might explain why he won more games in the 1970s (186) than any Major Leaguer. He notched at least 20 wins in eight seasons during the decade.
Obviously, Palmer piled up plenty of highlights during his 19-year career, all with the Orioles. Here’s a sampling of 10 of them.
1. Not too big for him
Oct. 6, 1966
Palmer became the youngest pitcher to record a World Series shutout when he defeated Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 6-0, in Game 2 in 1966. Nine days short of his 21st birthday, Palmer held the Dodgers to four hits, all but one of them singles. He remained an outstanding October performer throughout his career, going 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA in 17 career postseason appearances (15 starts).
2. Man for all decades
Oct. 14, 1983
More than 17 years after his first World Series win, Palmer made history again by contributing two scoreless innings of relief in Baltimore’s 3-2 victory over Philadelphia in Game 3 of the 1983 Fall Classic. Palmer earned the victory, making him the only pitcher to win World Series games in three decades.
3. Doing all he could
Oct. 11 and 16, 1971
Had the Orioles managed to defeat the Pirates in the 1971 World Series, Palmer might have had a chance to win the MVP Award of the Series. He secured a Game 2 victory that was as unlikely as it was workmanlike. He issued eight walks and yielded seven hits in eight innings. Yet, he allowed only three runs by limiting Pittsburgh to one hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Palmer earned the win in Baltimore’s 11-3 victory.
Five days later in Game 6, Palmer held the Bucs to two runs in nine innings as the Orioles went on to win, 3-2, in 10 innings.
4. Brooks’ one-game co-star
Oct. 10, 1970
This World Series was dominated by Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, who made every big play defensively and paced the team offensively. But Palmer deserved some credit for Baltimore’s 4-3 triumph at Cincinnati in Game 1. He allowed three runs on five hits while falling one out short of a complete game against a robust-hitting Reds lineup.
5. All the way back
Aug. 13, 1969
Back and shoulder problems nearly derailed Palmer’s progress early in his career. In fact, none of the 23 other clubs felt compelled to pay the $25,000 claiming fee when the Orioles waived him in September 1968. They all considered him to be too injury-prone. Palmer appeared to rebound in '69, building a 9-2 record by the end of June. Then, a torn muscle in his lower back kept him out for 41 days. He was only one start removed from his time out when he no-hit the A’s.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Palmer threw 142 pitches, all but 19 of them fastballs, in Baltimore’s 8-0 win. He issued six walks, including three free passes to Reggie Jackson, who led the American League with 42 homers at the time. But sharp defensive plays by right fielder Frank Robinson and third baseman Brooks Robinson helped sustain Palmer, who walked the bases loaded in the ninth before coaxing Larry Haney’s fielder’s-choice grounder for the final out.
6. Triplicate triumphs
Palmer was widely regarded to be in a class by himself during his AL Cy Young Award-winning seasons. He topped the AL with a 2.40 ERA and finished second to Jackson in AL MVP Award voting in 1973. Palmer outdid himself in ’75, when he led the Majors with 23 wins, a 2.09 ERA and 10 shutouts. One year later, he and San Diego’s Randy Jones shared the Major League lead with 22 wins. Palmer also led the bigs with 40 starts in '76.
7. A cinch for Cooperstown
Palmer was a lock to join the group of first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees when he became eligible for enshrinement. The only surprising aspect of his election was the fact that 33 voters chose to leave him off their ballots. He nevertheless was named on 411 of 444 ballots (92.6 percent).
8. Now this is a pitching matchup
Oct. 3, 1979
This would be worth going back in time for: Palmer starting for the Orioles against Nolan Ryan of the Angels in Game 1 of the 1979 AL Championship Series. Neither right-hander was around for the finish of Baltimore’s 6-3, 10-inning victory, but they made the game competitive. Palmer gave up three runs in nine innings; Ryan lasted seven innings, but only one of the three runs he surrendered was earned.
9. Overall excellence
To some extent, explaining Palmer’s success was simple: He rarely beat himself. Like most of his Orioles teammates, he was defensively adept, as shown by his four AL Gold Glove Awards. Until the AL instituted the designated hitter in 1973, Palmer also helped himself at the plate, batting a respectable (for pitchers) .174. Moreover, he never allowed a grand slam or back-to-back homers on the mound.
10. Total dominance
Oct. 5, 1970
Habitual winners become champions by refusing to give in to their opponents one iota. Palmer and the Orioles had that knack for grinding the other team into nothingness. This quality was on display in Game 3 of the 1970 AL Championship Series, when Baltimore, which went 108-54 during the regular season, completed a sweep of Minnesota to reach the World Series. Palmer helped secure the clinching 6-1 victory over the Twins by striking out 12 in a complete-game effort. After losing the previous year’s World Series in five games to the Mets, the Orioles finished the job this time by defeating the Reds in five games.