Palmer was born in New York, New York; shortly after his birth, Palmer was adopted by Moe Wiesen, a garment industry executive, and his wife Polly from Harrison, N.Y. After his adoptive father died in 1955, the 9-year-old Jim, his mother and his sister moved to California, where he began playing in youth-league baseball. In 1956, his mother married actor Max Palmer, from whom Palmer took his last name. Showing talent at the amateur level, upon high school graduation in 1962, Palmer signed a minor-league contract at the age of 17.
Palmer has been considered one of the best pitchers in Orioles—and major-league—history. He was a mainstay in the rotation during Baltimore's six pennant-winning teams in the 1960s (1966 & 1969), 1970s (1970, 1971 & 1979) and 1980s (1983). Also, he is the only pitcher in big-league history to win World Series games in three decades (1966, 1970–71, 1983). One of his most amazing feats is that during his 19-year major league career of 575 games (including 17 postseason games), he never surrendered a grand slam. He was sidelined several times by arm, shoulder and back problems, but still won 20 games in 8 different seasons (1970-1973 & 1975-1978) and in 4 other seasons went 15-10 (1966), 16-4 (1969), 16-10 (1980) and 15-5 (1982). He was one of four 20-game winners in the Orioles starting rotation in 1971, only the second rotation in major league history to include four 20-game winners, along with the 1920 Chicago White Sox. He was the only one of 4 20-game winners to repeat in 1972. Jim Palmer is also the last surviving member of the 4 20-game winners. Dave McNally died in 1998, Pat Dobson died in 2006, and Mike Cuellar died in 2010. Palmer is the only righthanded pitcher of the lively ball era - since 1920 - to win 20 games 8 different times (lefties Warren Spahn and Lefty Grove 8 did it), with righthanders Bob Lemon and Ferguson Jenkins doing it 7 times. Palmer won spots on 6 all-star teams, 4 Gold Gloves, 3 Cy Young Awards, and 2 ERA titles. He led the American League in victories three times. Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer were widely considered to be the best major league pitchers during the 1970s - but Palmer was not known to many until he began advertising jockey shorts. Palmer retired in 1984 as a member of the defending World Champions. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990 along with Joe Morgan.
A high-kicking pitcher known for an exceptionally smooth delivery, Palmer picked up his first major-league win on May 16, 1965, beating the Yankees in relief at home, and hitting the first of his three career major-league home runs, a two-run shot in the fourth off Yankees starter Jim Bouton. Palmer finished the season with a 5-4 record.
In 1966, Palmer joined the starting rotation. Baltimore rolled to the pennant, behind Frank Robinson's MVP and Triple Crown season. Palmer won his final game against the Kansas City Athletics to clinch the American League pennant. In Game 2 of that World Series at Dodger Stadium, he became the youngest pitcher (20 years, 11 months) to win a complete-game, World Series shutout, defeating Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 6-0. The underdog Orioles went on to sweep the series over a Los Angeles team that featured some formidable pitching of its own in Hall of Famers Koufax and Don Drysdale, and 17-game winner Claude Osteen. The shutout was part of a World Series record-setting 33⅔ consecutive shutout innings by Orioles pitchers. The Dodgers' last run (of which they scored only two) was against Moe Drabowsky in the third inning of Game 1; the Oriole relief pitcher shut out the Dodgers the rest of the way. Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally then pitched shutouts in the next three games.
The next two seasons were frustrating for Palmer, as arm troubles shelved him. He threw just 49 innings in 1967 and was sent to minor-league rehabilitation. Finally, thanks to surgery, work in the 1968 Instructional League and in winter ball, he regained his form.
In 1969, Palmer returned healthy, rejoining an Orioles rotation that included 20-game winners Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar, combining one of the finest starting staffs ever. That August 13, Palmer threw a no-hitter against Oakland, just four days after coming off the disabled list. He finished the season with a mark of 16-4, 123 strikeouts, a 2.34 ERA, and .800 winning percentage.
The next two years saw two more championships as the Orioles took their place among the great teams of all-time. In 1970, Cuellar went 24-8, McNally 24-9, Palmer 20-10; in 1971 the trio went 20-9, 21-5 and 20-9, respectively, with Pat Dobson going 20-8. Only one other team in MLB history, the 1920 Chicago White Sox, has had four 20-game winners.
Palmer won 21 games in 1972, and went 22-9, 158, 2.40 in 1973, walking off with his first Cy Young Award. His eight 20-win seasons were interrupted in 1974 when he was downed for eight weeks with elbow problems. He finished 7-12.
Again, Palmer was at his peak in 1975, winning 23 games, throwing 10 shutouts (allowing just 44 hits in those games), and fashioning a 2.09 ERA — all tops in the American League. He completed 25 games, even saved one, and allowed the batters a .216 batting average. He won his second Cy Young Award, and repeated his feat in 1976 (22-13, 2.51).
In 1977-78, Palmer won 20 and 21.
Over the next six seasons he was hampered by arm fatigue and a myriad of minor injuries. Even so, he brought a stabilizing veteran presence to the pitching staff. In the 1983 World Series, he earned a win in relief of Storm Davis in Game 3. The 17 years between his first World Series win in 1966 and this win is the longest period of time between first and last pitching victories in the World Series for an individual pitcher in major league history. He became the first pitcher in World Series play to win a game in 3 different decades.
Palmer retired after the 1984 season, during which he was released by Baltimore.
In 1991, Palmer attempted a comeback with the Orioles. After giving up five hits and two runs in two innings of a spring training game, he retired permanently. Many pundits thought he was trying to prove that Nolan Ryan was not the only pitcher of his age that could still pitch in the Major Leagues.
In a 19-year career, Palmer compiled a 268-152 record with 2,212 strikeouts, a 2.86 ERA, 521 games started, 211 complete games, and 53 shutouts in 3,948 innings. He never allowed a grand slam in his major-league career. In six ALCS and six World Series, he posted an 8-3 record with 90 strikeouts, and an ERA of 2.61 and two shutouts in 17 games. His final major-league victory was noteworthy: Pitching in relief in the third game of the 1983 World Series, he worked methodically through the Phillies' celebrity-studded batting order, giving up no runs and contributing hugely to a close and crucial Oriole win.
Palmer is currently a broadcaster covering Orioles games, known for his incisive criticism and unwillingness to give steroid-era hitters the plaudits commensurate with their statistics. From 1985-1989, and again from 1994-1995, Palmer formed a popular announcing team with Al Michaels and Tim McCarver at ABC. Palmer, like Michaels, McCarver and fellow 1990 Hall of Fame inductee Joe Morgan, was present at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit prior to Game 3 of the World Series.
- See also: Major League Baseball on ABC
Late in his playing career, Palmer gained notoriety as a spokesman and underwear model for Jockey brand men's briefs. He appeared in the company’s national print and television advertisements as well as on billboards at Times Square in New York City and other major cities. He donated all proceeds from the sale of his underwear poster to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
From 1992 until 1999, he was frequently seen on television throughout the United States in commercials for The Money Store, a national home equity and mortgage lender. He has periodically appeared in ads and commercials for vitamins and other health-related products. He was also the spokesperson for Nationwide Motors Corp.which is a regional chain of car dealerships located in the Middle Atlantic region.
He is currently a spokesman for the national "Strike Out High Cholesterol" campaign.
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career wins
- List of Major League Baseball ERA champions
- List of Major League Baseball wins champions
- Top 100 strikeout pitchers of all time
- Major League Baseball titles leaders
- List of Major League Baseball no-hitters
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube
- baseballhalloffame.org – Hall of Fame biography page
- Jim Palmer at the Internet Movie Database
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