You won't find a Hallmark card to commemorate the occasion, but Rafael Palmeiro joined the 3,000-hit club exactly five years ago tonight.
Palmeiro made history by lining a double off Seattle's Joel Pineiro in the fifth inning at Safeco Field. I didn't realize it happened on this date until reading Billy Ed Smith's comment, which I'll post below.
On this final off day before the second half slog begins, we as Orioles fans should mark this solemn anniversary. Five years ago today, Rafael Palmiero doubled in a win over Seattle for his 3,000th career hit. The O's were 49-40, a game behind the Red Sox in the A.L. East. Can we even imagine it? We all know what happened next. Raffy failed his drug test, blamed Tejada, Bigbie's supplier snitched on he and Gibbons, Roberts, etc., Mazilli got fired, Perlozzo was hired and the worst era of Orioles baseball got even worse. The O's finished '05 on a 25-48 plunge (still better than this year, though) and are a less-than-stellar 335-483 since the day the music died on Raffy and the rest of our PED clubhouse. I'm pretty sure that's the worst mark in baseball over that span. We can only hope we've hit rock bottom.
Nicely done, Billy Ed. And I enjoy how your name makes me think that you should play defensive end for the old Baltimore Colts, though I've taken some liberties.
Players poured out of the dugout to congratulate Palmeiro, but only after Miguel Tejada motioned for them to get on the field.
I sat in the press box that night, a beat writer for The Sun frantically working on an East Coast deadline and having no idea that Palmeiro would later fail a drug test, suggest that he received a tainted B-12 shot from Tejada, lose most of the support he still held in the clubhouse and disappear from baseball's landscape after the season.
The Orioles canceled plans to honor him in a ceremony at Camden Yards. One teammate felt relieved, saying he didn't look forward to painting a smile on his face that night. It wasn't until later that I learned how plenty of guys did exactly that while gathering around Palmeiro at second base on his historic night in Seattle.
Here's my game story, which I found during another internet search.
In case you wondered, Bruce Chen faced Jamie Moyer the following night, according to the box that ran at the end.
One other lasting memory from that game:
Just as the ball fell for hit No. 3,000, I heard my name called over the press box PA system. I had a phone call, which never happened.
Totally confused, I walked down to the first row and took the phone from someone on the Mariners' public relations staff. A radio station wanted to interview me about Palmeiro.
Already? While I'm on deadline?
Needless to say, I was too busy to cooperate and dumbfounded that anyone would think it was the appropriate time to track me down. I actually was embarrassed to hand back the phone, knowing it also was a bad time for Seattle PR to be paging me.
I was still writing follow-up stories on Palmeiro's failed test for 1A of The Sun when the Orioles decided to fire manager Lee Mazzilli in Anaheim. A scout from another organization actually tipped me off more than an hour before the Orioles confirmed it.
My workload that morning included Palmeiro, Mazzilli, a game story and a notebook. Probably a scouting report, too, since I'm pretty sure it was the final game of the series.
And you wonder if I miss those days.
Rehab updates: Brian Roberts went 2-for-3 with a strikeout for the GCL Orioles before leaving the game. He's 7-for-9 on his rehab assignment, which will continue at Double-A Bowie next week.
Luke Scott went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and a strikeout.