When Rafael Palmeiro said last year that he was thinking about making a comeback at 53 years old, he was roundly ridiculed. And for good reason—the oldest player in baseball is a full eight years longer than he is!
But the former Rangers, Cubs and Orioles slugger began his quest to shut up the haters, this writer included, by launching his first home run since 2005.
This dinger comes with some pretty big qualifiers. For starters, Palmeiro hit it in indy ball, which isn't exactly full of Cy Young candidates. In fact, the guy who threw the ball that Palmeiro sent into orbit is a 28-year-old former prospect who's chances of playing the MLB are as good as Raffy's.
Palmeiro's homer came in only his third game with the Cleburne Railroaders, who play in the independent Texas Association. Indy league teams have a long tradition of trying to draw fans with gimmicks and one of the most time-honored is bringing in a graying Major League retiree.
This stunt was a no-brainer for the Railroaders, who play just 45 miles from Palmeiro's old stomping grounds in Arlington, Texas and also employ the Cuba-native's 28-year-old son. Indeed, the presence of Patrick Palmeiro appears to the the primary reason Palmeiro signed up with Cleburne.
“I’ve been working really hard to get ready for this, but I’m especially excited to get to do this with my son Patrick," Palmeiro said in a statement released by the team earlier this month. "I’m excited to have the opportunity to play with him and have fun and see what happens.”
Inevitably, any success Palmeiro has with the Railroaders is going to have people bringing up his history of steroid use. He famously tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol in 2005, just a few months after he appeared before Congress and emphatically denied ever using steroids.
But Palmeiro's been hearing this noise for years, so there's little chance he's bothered by it. He's just happy to be hitting dingers again.