NEW YORK -- Jim Palmer recently turned 70 and Sandy Koufax 80, and that means we are coming upon the 50th anniversary of the time two of the greatest pitchers in Major League history met at the ages of 20 and 30, respectively, as opposing starters in opposite stages of their Hall of Fame careers during Game 2 of the 1966 World Series.
Palmer was the winning pitcher that day on the way to an Orioles sweep of the Dodgers. Koufax, meanwhile, was an unlucky loser (one earned run in six innings) in what turned out to be his last Major League game. During a visit to Major League Baseball Advanced Media's studios on Thursday to appear in the Edward Jones Chatting Cage, Palmer not only talked about his new book "Nine Innings to Success" and the American League East, but he also recalled his first World Series win:
"I watched Moe Drabowsky strike out 11 Dodgers in 6 2/3 innings [of relief in Game 1] and I said, 'Ooh, they might have a little problem with the high fastball.' But Sandy pitched great. It turned out, I was 20, he was 30, he was 27-7 with an ERA under 2.00 that year, and I didn't want to embarrass myself. But the way the game went, Paul Blair and Andy Etchebarren hit fly balls to center field. Willie Davis dropped the first one, dropped the second one, and after he dropped the second one, I think everybody knew he was having a bad day with the glove. He picked it up and threw it in the dugout."
It was a scoreless game in the fifth inning, when all that happened, leading to three O's runs. Koufax had thrown 25 of his first 28 pitches for strikes. The Dodgers rarely played day games at home, so Davis probably struggled with the sun. Koufax, mindful of the boos, put an arm around Davis to console him after that inning, while Palmer cruised toward a four-hit shutout.
"We got some unearned runs," Palmer continued. "The Dodgers would actually make three more errors in that game, and we'd win, 6-0. Koufax didn't really deserve to lose the game, but I was very happy that Willie had a bad day in the outfield.
"It was kind of surreal, because I went to Dodger Stadium when I was a kid. I went to fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades [in California]. I was adopted, born in New York, a big Yankee fan early on. I went to the [L.A.] Coliseum and used to see the Dodgers play all the time. To be pitching against Maury Wills and Tommy Davis ... I had seen all these guys play. I dreamed about maybe either being a Dodger or a Yankee, and to be able to pitch in that World Series was pretty special."
Palmer -- partly responsible for amazingly holding the Dodgers scoreless after the third inning of Game 1 -- continues a long broadcasting career these days as an Orioles analyst for MASN. He fielded many questions during his Chatting Cage visit, covering many of the topics explored in his new book, a memoir/success combination subtitled "A Hall of Famer's Approach to Achieving Excellence."
"It kind of goes back to what Cal Ripken Sr. told us in [Class A] Aberdeen about the reason we were there -- because of the fans," Palmer said of the interaction, referring to a passage in his book about lessons he had learned during his first stop in South Dakota for pro ball. "It allows them easier access. To me, it allows people to relate to the players a little more. You can interact with them -- some people have Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts."
When asked about his own Twitter account at @Jim22Palmer -- which tweeted about another stop earlier in the day at MLB Network -- the 268-game-winner and three-time American League Cy Young Award recipient gave much of the credit to his own social coach, wife Susan.
"I do the Twitter, but my wife's always reminding me, because she knows how important it is," Palmer said. "When I'm out broadcasting, like I'm going home tomorrow, we'll watch the games or whatever and she'll go, 'You have to tweet.'
"I'm in Tampa the beginning of last year when I had the account, the Orioles have a chance to sweep, and I'm going down to the gym and I see a broom and I go, 'Gotta take a shot of the broom.' And then, of course, the broom comes up. Last year we were in Chicago and had a chance to sweep, I did Al Capone with a bat. She really kind of helps. She's instrumental in motivating me to them. She's smart -- she studied civil engineering at Texas A&M."
Palmer talked at length about his stepson Spencer's autism, and the Hall of Famer praised MLB for its commitment in recent years to working with Autism Speaks to raise awareness in many ways, including specific schedule dates by clubs to accommodate families that cope with autism.
Palmer talked about Jake Arrieta's rise after leaving Baltimore for Chicago, saying the Cubs' ace has flourished because he was allowed to be more free with his mechanics. Palmer also said he was throwing a high of 177 pitches in 1966 when a pitching coach told him: "I'd like to bring the pitch count down to 130 to 140 pitches."
"Young pitchers are radar-gun-conscious, they want to know how fast they are throwing at a young age," Palmer said. "I don't think that's conducive to making it to the Majors."
Palmer was noncommittal when asked how he thinks the AL East might play out, but so far he said the Orioles have been about what he expected: "Tremendous bullpen, good defense and offensively one-dimensional." He said the Yankees "are old, with starting-pitching problems."
Boston, which was going for a series win against Baltimore on Thursday night, is more well-rounded, in Palmer's mind.
"They hit the ball hard, they're tough to get out -- they average six runs a game," he said. "Today I was asked, 'When are you working again?' I said, 'Orioles-Boston, a week from next Monday, after [Mookie] Betts cools off.'"