Palmer comeback almost brought him to the Expos

A year after being elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Baltimore Orioles great Jim Palmer attempted a comeback, accepting an invite to camp with the Montreal Expos and scheduling a bullpen session in Miami in fron tof Pat Gillcik and Cito Gaston in Miami. It was only 25 years ago. 

A year after being elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Baltimore Orioles great Jim Palmer attempted a comeback, accepting an invite to camp with the Montreal Expos and scheduling a bullpen session in Miami in fron tof Pat Gillcik and Cito Gaston in Miami. It was only 25 years ago. 

Jockey model hinted at comeback with Expos but he finally said no

By Danny Gallagher
We’re going back down memory lane  with this story.

It was 25 ago this month as we got close to spring training in West Palm Beach, Jim Palmer almost made his way to the Montreal Expos’ camp as a non-roster player.

Palmer, who had entered the Baseball Hall of Fame just a year earlier, wanted to come out of retirement at age 45. He had not pitched in the majors since May 12, 1984 when he was let go by his long-time team, the Baltimore Orioles.

At that time, I was an Expos’ beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and someone told me that Palmer had accepted an invitation to spring training. He was a 268-game winner and won 20 games eight times over the course of a career that spanned 19 seasons. 

Palmer won 186 games in the 1970s, the most of any major-league pitcher during that decade. He won the Cy Young award three times.

“He’d bring a lot of class to the organization,’’ said Expos scouting director Gary Hughes, who had been monitoring Palmer’s workouts in Miami. “Those Jockey underwear photos aren’t trick camera shots. He’s really in excellent shape.’’

Two former Orioles’ teammates in Dennis Martinez and Ken Singleton weighed in favorably in Palmer’s favour at the time.

“He hasn’t pitched in seven years but he’s in great shape. It would be great to have him on the club,’’ Martinez said. 

“Jim had a lot of idiosyncrasies but he was the best pitcher I ever played behind,’’ Singleton added.

In the end, the Palmer experiment never came to pass. After a number of his workouts, he told friends and baseball folks that he just didn’t think he would be good enough to compete. He also apparently tore a hamstring in one of his workouts. So he never made it to spring training with the Expos.

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Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com