T.R.’s Memoirs: Rafael Palmeiro never got the credit he deserved, and probably never will (Part I)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter. In this installment, T.R. looks back on the Rangers career of first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, a great player who was overshadowed much of the time and then had an almost guaranteed ticket to the Hall of Fame snatched away from him.
On July 31, 2005, I had the high honor of attending the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown and presenting Peter Gammons with the J. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball writing.
It is the most prestigious honor that can be given to a baseball writer. Just being the one to present it is an honor, and presenting it is a duty of the President of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It is an office you hold for one year while conducting BBWAA business and handling any complaints from the writers about anything and everything, usually access to the players or clubhouse.
No matter how many headaches you run into during the year, it is by far worth the experience simply for the weekend in Cooperstown to present the Spink Award. You’re surrounded by baseball royalty and they treat you as such, from being put up at the five-star Otsego Hotel, to the exclusive invitation to the private gala at the Hall of Fame on Saturday night and being on the dais Sunday afternoon.
Before the ceremony begins, those who are on the dais are asked to gather in a big tent behind the stage. When I walked into the tent, there was Gammons, myself, a couple of security guards and about 55 of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Just a few feet from where I was standing, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Hank Aaron were chatting casually. Gammons and I just sat there in silence, a rarity for both of us.
Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs, the two inductees that year were both so nervous — understandably so — they couldn’t stop pacing back and forth muttering to themselves as if practicing their speeches. They look liked two rookies getting ready for their first major-league game.
When I got on the dais, I was sitting with Duke Snider to my left, the great Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer. To my right was assistant commissioner Bob DuPuy and commissioner Bud Selig.
This being July 31, it was also the trade deadline. In 2005, the anticipated news everybody was following was Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox outfielder who was supposedly on the block. Rumors were hot and heavy.
One thing about trades is if it involves a significant transfer of money, the deal has to be approved by the commissioner. In this case, Selig, and sure enough …
Right during the middle of Boggs’ speech, a young lady appeared on the side of the dais, frantically waving her arms. She worked for the Hall of Fame.
“Commissioner! Commissioner!” she whispered loudly. Not sure how she whispered loudly, but that’s the best way to describe it.
“They need you to approve a trade!”
Selig was visibly irritated. He was enjoying the ceremonies and did not want to be bothered. But he dutifully left the stage and back to the tent to field the call. DuPuy and I looked at each other expectantly.
Manny Ramirez was going where?
Selig was not gone long. He sat with a disgusted look on his face as he looked at me and DuPuy.
“Matt Lawton,” he muttered.
But Selig and DuPuy both knew something that I didn’t know.