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Palmeiro Has His Number

Ranger first baseman becomes 19th player to hit 500 homers in 17-10 victory over Indians.

May 12, 2003|From Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas — Rafael Palmeiro wanted to hit his 500th home run at home. He waited until the last chance to do it.

Palmeiro hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Cleveland right-hander David Elder to become the second player to reach the milestone this season as the Rangers beat the Indians, 17-10, Sunday to end a three-game losing streak.

"It's a big relief," Palmeiro said. "I tried really not to think about it too much when I went up to the plate, but it's kind of hard not to when you have a sign that is about 600 feet long staring at you from behind the release point of the pitcher."

With the crowd standing in anticipation, knowing Palmeiro probably wouldn't get another at-bat, the left-hander hit a full-count fastball over the right-field fence.

The Rangers play their next six games on the road.

"I tried to get a fastball in and just didn't get it there," said Elder, the 328th pitcher Palmeiro has homered against. "He has 500 reasons why pitchers shouldn't make mistakes. That's not what I wanted to happen."

Fireworks exploded in the daylight sky and the crowd broke out into a loud and extended ovation as Palmeiro rounded the bases. Like all of his previous homers, there was no posing and no strutting after the ball left the bat.

That 10-foot by 20-foot banner that has been hanging high in center field, and updated for every homer since No. 495, was flipped over to 500. A specially designed logo commemorating Palmeiro's feat was unveiled on the right field wall, the tarp that had covered it removed by his two sons.

Palmeiro became the 19th player to join the 500-homer club, following Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, who did it April 4.

His teammates mobbed him at the plate, and as the crowd chanted "Raffy!" he came out of the dugout for a curtain call.

"It's pretty emotional for all of us with Raffy hitting 500 and us getting the win," All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "This is the way we all wanted it to happen."

Palmeiro returned to the field to start the eighth inning, but only so the crowd of 23,407 would have another chance to cheer the first baseman. Before the inning started, Herbert Perry replaced Palmeiro.

"It felt like a big giant gorilla just jumped off my back," he said. "I wanted to do it here. It almost feels like it would have been a big letdown not to."

This marked the third time two players have hit the historic homer in the same season. Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews did it in 1967, and Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson in 1971.

Among those at the game were Palmeiro's mother, Maria, and his brother Rick, who had arrived from Miami on Wednesday.

"I talked to my mom last night, and right before she went to bed, she goes, all that I want for Mother's Day is for you to hit the home run," Palmeiro said. "I said thanks for adding a little bit more pressure."

The historic ball was caught by a priest, who returned the ball to Palmeiro in return for several autographed items.

Hank Blalock went four for five with four RBIs and the Rangers denied the Indians their first sweep in Texas in 30 years.

Blalock's second four-hit game of the season upped his major league-leading average to .387. His two-run single in the fifth tied the score before he scored on an error.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Clout Club

Members of the 500 home run club with their best season, times hitting 40 or more, and times leading league in homers (x-active):

*--* Player HR Best 40+ Leader Hank Aaron 755 47 8 4 Babe Ruth 714 60 11 12 Willie Mays 660 52 6 4 x-Barry Bonds 623 73 6 2 Frank Robinson 586 49 1 1 Mark McGwire 583 70 6 4 Harmon Killebrew 573 49 8 6 Reggie Jackson 563 47 2 4 Mike Schmidt 548 48 3 8 Mickey Mantle 536 54 4 4 Jimmie Foxx 534 58 5 4 Willie McCovey 521 45 2 3 Ted Williams 521 43 1 4 Ernie Banks 512 47 5 2 Eddie Mathews 512 47 4 2 Mel Ott 511 42 1 6 x-Sammy Sosa 505 66 6 2 Eddie Murray 504 33 0 1 Rafael Palmeiro 500 47 4 0

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Frequent Contributors

At bats per home run (x-active):

*--* Mark McGwire 10.61 Babe Ruth 11.76 x-Barry Bonds 13.53 x-Sammy Sosa 14.15 Harmon Killebrew 14.22 Ted Williams 14.79 Mickey Mantle 15.12 Jimmie Foxx 15.23 Mike Schmidt 15.24 Willie McCovey 15.73 Hank Aaron 16.38 Willie Mays 16.49 Eddie Mathews 16.67 Frank Robinson 17.08 Reggie Jackson 17.52 x-Rafael Palmeiro 18.23 Ernie Banks 18.40 Mel Ott 18.50 Eddie Murray 22.49

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On Deck

The five active players who are closest to reaching 500 home runs:

*--* Fred McGriff 483 Ken Griffey Jr 469 Juan Gonzalez 417 Jeff Bagwell 391 Andres Galarraga 389

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