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Palmer: 'The Baseball in the Year 2000 Feels Like Naugahyde'

Aired July 12, 2000 - 1:36 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Baseball's American League extended its winning streak over the National League with a 6-3 victory in this year's All-Star game, and it was the junior circuit's fourth straight All-Star victory. The most emotional moment came early in the evening when Andres Galarraga was introduced. The hometown crowd gave a standing ovation to the Atlanta Braves first baseman who made a comeback from cancer to win a spot on the All-Star roster.


ANDRES GALARRAGA, ATLANTA BRAVES FIRST BASEMAN: Probably no words, just how happy, how excited I'm feeling today. That's a great moment in my career in baseball, working in the field with my kids and the ovation they gave to me with my fans here in Atlanta. I mean, that's a really special moment and I'm so excited.

DEREK JETER, NEW YORK YANKEES SHORTSTOP: Great story, you know, for him to come back and have the year that he's having this year and then get a chance to start in the All-Star game at home. You know, he got a warm reception both from the fans and the players. You know, he's a great person as well as a great player.


ALLEN: Derek Jeter became the first player in the New York Yankees' storied history to win the All-Star game's Most Valuable Player award. Jeter received three hits -- got three hits and three at-bats, including a two-run single that put the American League ahead to stay. Not a bad night.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Palmer pitched in five All-Star games. In a career that stretched from the mid-1960s to the mid-'80s, he won 268 games with a career earned-run average of 2.86. He's considered the best pitcher in the history of the Baltimore Orioles, holding the club records for most wins, completed games, strikeouts and shutouts. He was the youngest pitcher to record a complete game World Series shutout and was the only pitcher to win World Series games in three separate decades.

Jim Palmer was inducted into the Hall of Fame his first year of eligibility, and he joins here in our Atlanta studious today.


JIM PALMER, HALL OF FAME PITCHER: Hi, nice to be here.

PHILLIPS: Nice to have you here. Let's talk about playing in an All-Star game. How is that different, Jim, from playing with your team during a regular game?

PALMER: Best line-up you're ever going to face. In fact, I pitched here in 1972, which is when Hank Aaron hit a homerun. In fact, we were having a meeting and Gaylord Perry had just come over from the National League, he was going to be one of the American League pitchers, and he said, you know, somebody's got to let Hank Aaron hit a homerun tonight. I said, he has about 670 homeruns already. I said, how are we going to know whether we let him or not? As it turned out, he hit a homerun off Gaylord Perry that night.

But it's a very exciting time and I always felt that you don't want to let your team down, you don't want to let the American League team -- your American League down. And I kind of read all the articles where it doesn't mean as much as it used to be -- and maybe it doesn't because of the homerun-hitting contest and whatever. But I think if you're a true American-Leaguer, you want to beat the National League because it's about pride.

PHILLIPS: Speaking of pride, now, I saw a lot of players out there with their kids last night. What a beautiful human touch. What did you think about that? because players are getting a lot of grief lately.

PALMER: Well, they are, but I think there were two things that were really poignant as far as I was concerned last night, was, first of all, Andres Galarraga. We just saw the clip. And I think people can relate to people. I think it's very hard sometimes to relate to the modern player because we talk about how much money they're making and they live a different life. But when you see somebody like Andres Galarraga affected by things that we're all affected by, which is disease, and you get to see him with his family, and then you get to see the smile on his face.

I broadcast about 55 games for the Orioles and not a lot of players have a lot of smiles on their face. I mean, not that a lot of them don't. But there's one guy in Baltimore that, you know, he looks like he's going to the dentist every time he plays, and that's not what you want. And to see that last night I think was very special, and to know that -- and to kind of humanize the baseball players I thought was a very special moment for everybody involved.

PHILLIPS: Well, yes, let's talk about it for a minute. You have some interesting insights with regard to the human side of baseball and how it's changed a little bit. I mean, I remember as a kid I was a Junior Padre. I mean, all-American heroes were baseball players. Now we've got racial comments, we have, you know, drug problems. You didn't think about that, you know, years ago. Do you think that we're kind of losing that feel?

PALMER: I think we've actually humanized the sport, and that's why it's real important when you find somebody that goes through what every -- you know, everyday America goes through. And I'm not going to blame CNN or whatever, but I mean when I played, if you were on Game of the Week, it was very special. Now almost every game that's played is televised. So I think we learn a lot more about players. You know, "Sports Illustrated" existed back then, so if John Rocker said what he said in the year 2000, if he had said it back in, you know, 1965, it would have made news, but it probably wouldn't have got as much play. It certainly would have meant as much. But I think nowadays you have to be very aware of how important it is to take responsibility for what you do...

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

PALMER: ... and I think that's a lesson we all could learn. And, you know, I mean, Atlanta's coming to Baltimore, I'm going to broadcast their games this weekend and I suppose I'll have a moment to talk to John. And my advise to him is, you know, John, you were definitely wrong in what you said...

PHILLIPS: You're a role model.

PALMER: Well, but not only that. It's just, John, listen, if you didn't mean what you say, take responsibility and move on. And I think we all need to do that in our life. And I think, nowadays, you're much more highly scrutinized than you used to be.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Technically, you have an interesting ball theory. I was reading about this.

PALMER: Well, my -- the ball's different.


PALMER: Now, whether it's more alive -- lively or not...

PHILLIPS: Is it easier to be a ballplayer now?

PALMER: I think it's easier to hit. I think what it is is it -- we have an environment where you have bigger, stronger hitters and they take supplements, the parks are more intimate, the strike zone is more -- is much smaller, you have -- I mean, you have pitchers that are being rushed to the major leagues because of expansion. And if you take a baseball and you take a ball from last year or two or three years ago and you compare it with this one, this year's baseball is harder, it doesn't have the same feel. It's like going to buy a leather sofa and they have a leather sofa on one side and they have a Naugahyde on the other. The baseball in the year 2000 feels like Naugahyde.

So it's -- and pitching is so much a feel and touch situation, but I think the seems are different, the ball doesn't probably have the same aerodynamic flight that it had. So it's a great year to be a hitter and I think they need to raise the mound and try to level the playing field to some degree.

PHILLIPS: OK. Bigger strike zone, come on.

PALMER: Yes. You know, if you're broadcaster, you want the games to get over in a hurry.

PHILLIPS: There you go. Jim Palmer, thank you. And we can't go out without mentioning your no-hitter.

PALMER: Well, thank you. I only had one. Shucks

PHILLIPS: Only one, what a bummer. Thanks for being with us.

PALMER: Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for having me.



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