Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

IN PERSON: Palmeiro's 3,000 hit

My favorite team is the Baltimore Orioles. Since I
arrived from Cuba as a teenager at 17 to live
with my aunt in Miami I adopted the Orioles.
One of my first jobs was as a ball boy at the old
Miami Stadium in NW 23rd St in Miami where the
Orioles used to have their Spring Training home.
Last week I saw my favorite team and a compatriot
carving his name in history. I was ‘up close and
personal with guys like John (Boog) Powell,
Jim Gentile, Brooks Robinson, Chuck Estrada,
Gus Triandos and others.

By Amaury Pi-GonzálezIs it not everyday you see a Major League player
hit his 3,000 hit. I was lucky enough to be at SAFECO Field in Seattle on July 15th for the second
game of a four-game set between the Mariners
and the Orioles.

Rafael Palmeiro is 40 years old. He was born in
Lawton, Havana, Cuba and left with his parents in
1971 on what was called them the Freedom Flights.
It was some kind of agreement between the
government of the USA and Cuba that a certain
amount of people could leave legally by air from
Cuba to the USA.

When Palmeiro left in 1971 he was 6 years old,
he went to school in Miami and is completely
bilingual. Presently Rafael Palmeiro makes his
permanent home in Texas.

This Cuban-born player is a humble but proud
person. His first ever hit was when he came up
with the Chicago Cubs on September 8, 1986
against Tom Hume of the Philadelphia Phillies,
his 3,000 hit was almost 20 years later last
week on July 15, 205 at Safeco Field,Seattle.

It was 8:26PM(PCT) on Friday July 15,205
at Safeco Field (with the roof open) that
Rafael Palmeiro came to the plate in the fifth
inning against Joel Piñeiro. The count was 2 balls
and 2 strikes when the Puertorican righthander
tried to sneak a fast ball to Palmeiro, Palmeiro
hit it deep and close to the line in left field
(no more tha 2 feet fair)it bounced and
hit the fence….Palmeiro was at second base and
SAFECO Field had a Fiesta !!!!

The whole Orioles team, including Preston
Palmeiro(his teenage son)ran into the proximity
of second base to hug and celebrate Rafael,
the pitchers and catchers in the bullpen also
joined the party….the fans at Safeco that
night , 39,044, gave Palmeiro a close to 10 minute
non-stop ovation. Palmeiro saluted them by taking
his hat off. In the scoreboard the images of
the only other 3 players ever to have over
500 home runs and 3,000 hits were visible,
Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

Rafael Palmeiro bought himself a ticket to
the Hall of Fame with that double.
He also became the third Hispanic to make it to
the magic 3,000 hit plateau.

The others:
1-Roberto Clemente(Puerto Rico) -a double-
on September 29,1972
2-Rod Carew(Panamá)
on August 4, 1985 – a single-

Of the 26 Major League players to have reached
the 3,000 hits, only 6 have done it with a double:
-Honus Wagner July 9, 1914
-Stan Musial May 13,1958
-Roberto Clemente September 29,1972
-Al Kaline September 24,1974
-Rickey Henderson October 7, 2001
-Rafael Palmeiro July 15, 2005

Eighteen of the 26 players made their 3,000
hit with a single, 6 with doubles, the only
triple for a 3,000 hit was Paul Molitor’s on
September 16,1996 and the only one with a
home run for his 3,000 was Wade Boggs
on August 7, 1999.

When I see Rafael Palmeiro I do not see
a player that plays the part of being a star,
he is the ultimate team player. As a matter
of fact with his 3,000 hit(double)he drove
in a run. No wonder when I interviewed him
he told me his two favorite players of all
time were Roberto Clemente and Cuban
Atanasio Rigal(Tony)Pérez. Both were the
ultimate team player, both where great clutch
hitters just like Rafael, always with the team
first and them second.

What a moment that was back in Safeco Field
on July 15th ! This is why baseball is the King
of Sports.

The Orioles do not have Spanish radio. I joked
prior to the game with Colombian-born Joe Angel
who is the English voice for the Orioles and told
him If he was going to do the call also in Spanish.
He was in town with his broadcast partner
Fred Mantra, a great guy also, we spoke about
when the Orioles traveled to Cuba back in 1998
to play against the Cuban team.

So, I was the only life Spanish broadcast of that
game(all games in Seattle at home) so my call
was picked up by ESPN DEPORTES and played in
their higlights. Also, a camera crew was there and
did an interview on me, emphasizing that I
was the first Cuban-born announcer to ever call
a 3,000 hit of a Cuban-born player (that is why ESPN DEPORTES is on the air, to find stuff like
this)so It was a thrill for me to be at Safeco and
to call that game and specially that moment.

Rafael Palmeiro was lucky, he left Cuba on a
plane and legally. Ten years before Palmeiro
I did same via Pan American Airlines when they
had regular scheduled flights between Havana-Miami-Havana and Havana-Tampa-Havana.
In 1961 there were also flights from Havana
to New York and back.

After Rafael Palmeiro left Cuba in 1971 the
“Freedom Flights” were discontinued and it
was not until 1980 that the Mariel Boatlif
came aobut and over 250,000 Cubans left
the island looking for a better future.
Since then there is nothing of that sort and
the only way Cubans can leave the island
is by escaping in homemade rafts,dingies
and stuff that you would not dare to be on even
if you are in a swimming pool. But that is the
desire of free men everywhere.
Sometimes Cuba athletes ask for exile during
Olympic games or any other type of competition’
that takes place outside of Cuba.

Fidel Castro is living in his fantasy world and
since he declared himself a Marxist-Leninist
he still hopes that the US will accept his
totalitarian system of government. When the
Soviet Union collapsed, the Cuban government
lost around $10 billion dollars per year “help”
from their biggest communist supporters, but
today Cuba is a sad place to be.

Yes, the Cuban government gives its people free
medical and free schooling but in return they
OWN YOU. You have no freedom to travel outside
the country and if you have any doubts how they
run that system all you have to do is refer to
that exhibition game in Havana back in 1998
between the Orioles and the Cuban National
team. The people that attended that game, were
not regular Cuban citizens that liked baseball but
“hand picked”by the committees of the Cuban
Communist government.

When you see a demostration in Havana(like when
the Elián González affair) have in mind that those
things are not spontaneous. They are staged by
the “block committees”of the Cuban communist
party. They are well organize they go to your
home tell you where you should be, they give you
a little Cuba flag to wave and there you go…
If you have an “excuse”that you could not demostrate, it better be a good one or they
will put you away and your family will never
see you again. Yes, that is Castro’s paradise.
Too bad professors in Universities in this
country do not tell their students the truth,
but glorify Fidel Castro like some sort of
Latin God that stood to the big bad american.

By the way. Some write that Castro was a great
prospect back in the 50s and that the NY Giants
and Washington Senators were after him. My good friend Roberto González Echevarría
professor of Comparative Languages and Studies
at Yale wrote a book uncovering that lie. There
are no records of Castro as a great prospect,
yes he played baseball, but guess what ? In
Cuba we all played baseball at some time in
our lives !

Rafael Palmeiro left as a 6 year old, he was not
a ballplayer when he left, but he recognizes that
he was a lucky person to be given that opportunity
amd above all he still loves his country of birth
and his culture. His Spanish is impecable.

During my interview he told me: “these fans here
in Seattle have been great to me, classy all the
way, I cannot thank them enough”
It is true that the fans in Seattle are good fans
and they appreciate good baseball when they see
it and Palmeiro for reasons he told me
(doesn’t really know) always hit well in Seattle.
As a matter of record after his 3,000 hit, he
blasted a home run, his 52nd home run against the
Mariners on the last game of this series.
The 52 home runs Palmeiro has hit against the
Mariners in his career is tops for him against any

Raúl Ibañez, the DH of the Mariners whose
parents are Cubans told me that his father
Armando used to tell him that he should follow
the hitting style of Rafael Palmeiro.

This was one of the great baseball moments
I have lived in baseball, forever it will be in
my mind.


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