Pitcher from Scottsdale thrived in majors

2011-08-17T00:00:00Z Pitcher from Scottsdale thrived in majors Arizona Daily Star
August 17, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order.

Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Jim Palmer

Achievement

Jim Palmer was a basketball player of such promise that legendary UCLA coach John Wooden offered him a scholarship to play for the Bruins in 1963.

The 6-foot 3-inch Scottsdale High School senior, as smooth on the basketball court as he was on the pitching mound, was a first-team All-State forward at SHS. He then went 10-0 as a Scottsdale pitcher and pledged to play baseball for Arizona State coach Bobby Winkles.

Palmer was so intent on playing at ASU that he joined the campus fraternity Sigma Chi and then, just as school began in 1963-64, accepted a $50,000 bonus with the Baltimore Orioles.

It was a good decision.

When he was 20, Palmer became the youngest player ever to pitch a shutout in the World Series, out-dueling the great Sandy Koufax in Game 2 as the Orioles swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.

He gained his first bit of national fame by telling reporters the secret to his strength was to eat pancakes on the days that he pitched; pancakes were to Palmer what spinach was to Popeye.

It was an indication of things to come: Palmer won 268 games, had a 2.86 ERA and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1990, receiving 411 of a possible 444 votes, or 92.6 percent. And why not?

He won 20 games over four consecutive seasons twice: 1970-73 and again in 1975-78. He won four Gold Gloves for fielding excellence and was 4-2 in six World Series appearances, starting eight games.

Those of recent generations probably know the camera-friendly Palmer more for his TV commercials for Jockey underwear, Head and Shoulders shampoo, and TV spots for home equity loan organizations than for baseball.

He is now part of the Orioles TV/radio broadcast team.

Hometown; age

Scottsdale; 66

Notable

Palmer attempted a comeback in 1991, after being elected to the Hall of Fame. It fizzled before he could make an official appearance. "I don't know if it was the Jockey ads or not, but a lot of people kept telling me I looked like I could still pitch," he told reporters then.

Greg Hansen

On StarNet: See the archive at: azstarnet.com/sportscentennial

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