Today marks the blog entry that's been 365 days in the making, except for the fact that I didn't start this blog until January 1. I suppose that would mean that it's been 218 days in the making, but perhaps I'm getting off-track. Anyway, as I subtly mentioned in a previous post, today is my twenty-sixth birthday. I would have posted a card of one of the Orioles who shares this fine day with me, but one (John Wasdin) didn't stick around long enough to earn an Orioles card, and the other (Nelson Briles) is better saved for a future Vintage Friday. If you're interested in a more comprehensive list of MLB players born on the fifth day of the eighth month (and why wouldn't you be?), click here.
Today's card not only perfectly encapsulates the passage of time, showing Jim Palmer at the ages of nineteen and thirty-six (the second photo actually having been taken in 1982, coincidentally the year of my birth), but it also showcases the greatest pitcher in Orioles history. He also happens to have pitched three times on August 5, and excelled in all three performances. I should note that as a baby, I had a tiny Orioles tee with Palmer's #22 on it; I've seen the picture, but I foolishly gave it to my sister to scan a year ago and it may be lost to the ages now.
Palmer's first 8/5 start came in 1970, a Wednesday night game at Memorial Stadium. He dispatched of the Red Sox in two hours, allowing four hits and walking two while striking out seven batters (including Carl Yastrzemski twice). The O's won 3-0 behind Palmer (16-7)'s masterful pitching and a three-hit performance by outfielder Merv Rettenmund. But the pitcher helped his own cause as well, reaching base on a sacrifice bunt that was thrown away by Boston pitcher Sonny Siebert in the second inning, and singling to left field in the fourth. The win was the fifth straight for the Birds, and allowed them to maintain a 9.5 game lead over the Yankees.
For an encore, Jim Palmer offered an eerily similar effort in 1975. This time it was a Tuesday night in Fenway, but again he shut out the Red Sox 3-0 in about two hours' time to improve his record to 16-7. The Sox would get the final laugh that year, making it to the World Series before falling to the Reds in an epic seven-game set, but for the night the second-place O's had closed within 7.5 games. Palmer permitted only three base runners all evening (two hits, one walk), and struck out eight Beantown batters. Bobby Grich and Brooks Robinson were responsible for the three O's runs, with each delivering an RBI single; Grich also lined a ball to shortstop Rick Burleson, who threw wildly to second base in an attempt to double off Al Bumbry; Bumbry would score the third and final run on that play. Former Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup contributed three hits to the Baltimore attack.
The Oriole ace's third and final gem in the series actually came on the very day I was born in 1982. It was a Thursday night tilt in Baltimore, first pitch arriving about two hours after I had. The third-place O's bested the A.L. West-leading Royals 5-1. Though Palmer (9-3) surrendered his first August 5th run, he once again went the distance, allowing three K.C. hits and one walk, and punching out seven opposing hitters. The sole blemish on his evening was a solo home run by George Brett, who would eventually join #22 in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Oriole offense was paced by Al Bumbry's leadoff home run and a three-run fourth inning off of Kansas City pitcher Vida Blue. Rick Dempsey walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, and Rich Dauer followed with a two-run single. Disco Dan Ford provided the exclamation point with an RBI single in the eighth inning.
While these three Jim Palmer masterpieces are each impressive on their own, when you tally them together the results are positively staggering. His pitching line on August 5 is as follows:
3 Games Started
3 Complete Games
27 Innings Pitched
1 Earned Run
0.48 Walks + Hits Per Inning Pitched (That's one baserunner every two innings!)
0.33 Earned Run Average
For the record, these three games represented Jim's career wins number 55, 145, and 257.
As a reminder, the Orioles as a team are 29-20 on my birthday, which includes a 16-8 mark from 1982 through 2007. They'll try to tie a team best with their fifth consecutive August 5 win tonight in Anaheim. Starting pitcher Chris Waters makes his major league debut against Jon Garland. He's got some mighty large spikes to fill, but there's nothing wrong with a little blind faith now and then. I'll fill my evening with a celebratory dinner with my family, and meet you back here tomorrow.