At age 53, Palmeiro set to play independent ball with his son
CLEBURNE, Texas (AP) — Rafael Palmeiro has signed to play for the independent Cleburne Railroaders at age 53, nearly 13 years after his last major league game.
The second-year American Association team announced the deal Wednesday. The Railroaders also signed Palmeiro’s 28-year-old son, Patrick, who has played for other independent teams the past three seasons.
Palmeiro said in a statement issued by the team that he was “especially excited to get to do this with my son Patrick.”
It was not clear exactly how much the elder Palmeiro will play or what his role will be for the Railroaders. Their stadium is about a 45-mile drive from the Texas Rangers‘ ballpark, where Palmeiro played 10 of his 20 major league seasons and hit his 500th homer in 2003.
Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in 2005, his final season, following a positive test for the banned steroid Stanozolol.
The suspension in August 2005 came a few months after Palmeiro testified before a congressional panel and emphatically pointed his finger in the air when saying he had “never used steroids. Period.”
Palmeiro never denied testing positive, but said he never intentionally took any banned substances and that a tainted vitamin shot caused his failed test.
The four-time All-Star never played another major league game and dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014 after receiving less than 5 percent of the vote despite 3,020 hits and 569 homers. He received 11 percent of the vote in 2011, his first year on the ballot, and that went up to 12.6 percent in 2012 before dropping to 8.8 percent and then 4.4 percent.
A three-time Gold Glove first baseman with a sweet left-handed swing, Palmeiro is one of only six players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, who got his 3,000th career hit last Friday.
In 2,831 big league games, Palmeiro hit .288. He made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1986, and was traded to Texas after the 1987 season. He had two stints with both the Rangers and Orioles, his only other teams.
Palmeiro, who still lives in the Dallas area, is going independent only months after indicating his desire for the chance at an MLB comeback in his 50s. He didn’t get that opportunity from any team during spring training.
“Nobody gave me a chance to go to spring training, so I will just take this path,” Palmeiro said in the text to The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday.
Three years ago, Palmeiro played one game with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters alongside Patrick. Rafael Palmeiro went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a walk in that game.
Patrick Palmeiro hit .256 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs in 128 games for the Skeeters in 2015, and played for them again in 2016. He hit .236 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 110 games last year for Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League.