Sun, Jul 17, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Palmeiro among the best

BASEBALL Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles is the fourth player in Major League Baseball to have tallied 3,000 career hits and more than 500 home runs

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE ANDAP , SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Rafael Palmeiro became the 26th player in major league history, and the third Latin player, to join the 3,000-hit club Friday night with a fifth-inning double against the Mariners.

Palmeiro, the Baltimore Orioles' 40-year-old designated hitter and first baseman, has also collected 566 home runs for ninth on the career list. Only three other players have compiled at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits: the Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (755 homers and 3,771 hits), Willie Mays (660 and 3,283) and Eddie Murray (504 and 3,255).

Palmeiro came to the US from Cuba in 1971 and reached the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 1986. He joins Rod Carew (Panama) and his boyhood idol, Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico), as the only Latin players to reach 3,000 hits.

When asked before the game how it felt to be considered in such elite company, Palmeiro showed his usual modesty.

"You're talking about the greatest players of all time," Palmeiro said. "I'm not so sure my name should be mentioned with those guys."

The crowd of more than 39,000 gave Palmeiro a standing ovation, and he acknowledged fans with a helmet-tipping tribute.

In his first at-bat, Palmeiro walked in the first inning and the fans booed the Mariners' pitcher, Joel Pineiro. In the seventh, Palmeiro singled to pass Clemente, who finished with 3,000 hits.

"I'm in awe of this feat," said Sam Perlozzo, the Orioles' bench coach. "Beyond the 3,000 hits, to be in the class with only three other guys, Mays, Aaron and Murray, I don't know if people are appreciating that as much as they should."

Palmeiro was joined in Seattle by his wife, Lynne; two sons, Patrick, 15, and Preston, 10; and his brother Rick. His sons were in the Orioles' dugout for the milestone.

Over the years, Seattle has been one of Palmeiro's favorite hitting targets. He entered the game with a .288 (225 of 782) career average and 51 home runs against the Mariners.

"So you could say he's pretty happy to be here," the Mariners' closer Eddie Guardado said before the game.

"He's a class act, man. You like to see good guys do things like that."

Other milestones are in reach. Carew leads Latin players with 3,053 career hits, and Palmeiro is approaching 600 career homers. But he said he had not yet decided whether to play next season.

"My kids are more important than anything I do in this game," he said. "I'm running out of time. I love playing baseball. This is what I want to do forever, but other things are more important than just baseball. I don't know if 600 is any different than what I end up with this year. It's just a number."

Orioles 6, Mariners 3

Melvin Mora and Sal Fasano hit solo homers for the Orioles. Rodrigo Lopez (8-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings for his second straight victory. B.J. Ryan pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save.

Red Sox 17, Yankees 1

Trot Nixon hit a three-run, inside-the-park homer and drove in five runs, and David Ortiz hit a grand slam Friday as the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 17-1 for the second time this season.

Boston roughed up New York's depleted pitching staff, sending the Yankees to their second loss in 10 games. The Red Sox won 17-1 at Yankee Stadium on May 28, the most runs they ever scored against the Yankees and their biggest margin ever against their archrivals.

"We'd take a win any way we can get it, but it was nice to be able to have some offensive success," Boston manager Terry Francona said.

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