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The story behind the one-of-a-kind sunglasses-wearing Lowell Palmer

August 26th, 2022

Lowell Palmer has turned into a cult idol among baseball card collectors — though he wishes it had been due to his performance on the field rather than his signature specs.

He’s been called “D.B. Cooper,” for his resemblance to the mysterious plane hijacker from 1971 who disappeared and was never seen again. Given his love of life and joy at playing pranks, Palmer probably doesn’t mind that comparison so much.

Even though leading of his baseball cards were always notable for how he looked, the backs were maybe even stranger because they gave small peeks into Palmer’s life, featuring tales of P.I. work and days spent training pigeons.

Lowell Palmer is really a truly one-of-a-kind person, with the one-of-a-kind card to complement.

Image via Trading Card Database

He managed to get onto baseball cards and come up with a five-year MLB career with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland and NORTH PARK from 1969-74 is all because of a robust — if wild — right arm.

“In Little League, the parents met up and banned me from pitching,” Palmer explained in a recently available telephone call. “You understand those helmets we used to utilize? They werent helmets, they wrapped around your mind on your own ears — Im giving my age away, arent I? — I hit among those and I broke it in two. And the parents banned me from pitching in Little League.”

Palmer wants to tell stories, often punctuating them with a sharp bark of fun or perhaps a world-weary grumble.

“I was at Dixieanne Park and a man hit me a line drive,” he said. “It bounced before me, I picked it up, I visited throw the guy out in the home, and I threw it on the backstop in to the street. I hit an automobile going down the road! I simply had an excellent strong arm, but I hardly ever really found my control.”

That could end up being his undoing at the big league level. Regardless of all of the velocity on earth, few pitchers could work around 5.7 walks per nine innings.

Are you aware that sunglasses, though? That story is easy enough — and it’s really not that Palmer thought he was cooler than everybody else. When it had been time and energy to get his photo taken, the photographer posed him therefore the sun will be shining on his face. But Palmer had a concern along with his eyes, so the sun always blinded him, requiring him to wear the shades from the mound.

“‘I can’t take action. I cannot see. There is no way I could keep my eyes open,'” Palmer said he told the photographer. “I’m tearing up and everything and I said, ‘The only way I could take action, I’m putting these sunglasses on and I can take action.’ He said, ‘OK, just do it.’ So, that’s the way the sunglasses got on the website.”

This is nothing new for Palmer, whose thick lenses (for seeing) had earned him the nickname “Coke bottles” from teammates. Although it might have been a headache when it came time for his baseball card photo, it designed for lots of fun contrary to the opposition.

“I don’t believe [the sunglasses] gave me an edge. What gave me an edge is Id drill ’em,” he said with fun.

He shared a popular story from when he was pitching in the Carolina League and teamed up with the clubhouse attendant to greatly help put a scare in to the opposition. Both would leave his glasses in the opposing team’s dugout watching with glee if they walked in.

“What exactly are these? Whose are these?” someone on another team would eventually ask.

“Oh, that is the guy who’s pitching against you tonight,” the attendant would say. “He left them here. I gotta encourage them to him.”

So, Palmer would emerge from his dugout to warm-up, sans glasses. He’d toe the rubber and face … second base.

“The clubhouse kid would start yelling at me. ‘Hey! Change!'” Palmer remembered. “I scared the pants off half those guys.”

Palmer simply thought life — and baseball — ought to be fun, something that’s clearly still important in his life even today.

“My reputation was that I was always laughing and smiling,” Palmer said. “A lot of people said, ‘You don’t take baseball seriously. You’re said to be stern about everything.’ Hey, I can’t stand to reduce — and I’ll let you know that. When I was throwing, I was an extremely serious ballplayer, but everybody thought I was sort of goofy because I’d laugh on the market.”

Are you aware that wild stories on the trunk of his cards — plus some that weren’t on the website — let’s let Palmer share the tales.

Image via Trading Card DB

Palmer, who raised pigeons as a boy while growing up in Sacramento, still includes a deep love for the birds, fondly remembering how they might land on his outstretched arms when he let them out from the cage.

“If you are poor and you also live in a residence where everybody thinks there’s nobody surviving in there, [of course you’ll raise pigeons],” Palmer said. “I built a pigeon cage in the trunk and started raising on pigeons with my neighbor. We used to take them around Reno or Tahoe and let them go and see if we’re able to beat them home.”

Unfortunately, not absolutely all the trips went well.

“We beat many of them home. They need to have already been the slowest damn pigeons on the planet,” Palmer said “Well, [one time] they never came home. Down the road, we discovered there was a location along the way back off there that had hawks plus they just picked off the pigeons.”

Palmer had a fairly sweet gig, specifically for an adolescent: At the humble age of 13, Palmer began working at the nearby cinema, quickly upgrading from usher to the candy counter completely to assistant manager. The theater’s manager was a former detective, though, and wished to return back to the investigations gig. So, when Palmer was 15, he was asked to greatly help serve subpoenas.

“We’ll let you know where they’re at,” the theater manager/private eye said, “and you also go and present them [the paper] and you also be sure you touch them.”

“What can you mean I gotta touch them?” an alarmed Palmer asked.

“The paper,” the manager replied, “just make certain the paper touches them and you also say, ‘You’ve been served.”

The majority of the cases were easy and folks didn’t have an excessive amount of a concern with the summons. But there is no story unless something happened at least one time.

“Only 1 time was dangerous. Guy chases us with a knife,” Palmer remembered. “But he was much too slow for all of us. Squirrels couldn’t have caught us that day. But Ronnie, my partner in crime, both of us went different directions. ‘There’s no chance that guy’s gonna catch each one folks!’ The nice days before baseball.”

Not absolutely all of Palmer’s best stories managed to get to the trunk of cards though. Because he was a pitcher, Topps never printed his batting stats, meaning card collectors never really had statistical proof Palmer’s lone big league home run, which came on July 19, 1969, while facing the Cubs’ Bill Hands. After swinging way late on a fastball and fouling off a slider, Palmer loaded up.

“He throws me a fastball. It had been externally corner of the plate and I swung and nearly took my shoes off,” Palmer said. “I hit it also it was a line drive right at shortstop. Well, I simply trotted a bit because I said, ‘He’s gonna catch it.’ Also it went over his glove. So, I became popular running such as a jackrabbit. I hit first base. My helmet came flying off. I’ll second, I go over within my coach, and he’s got his hands up. I thought he was giving me the ‘get down’ sign!”

So, Palmer slid into second base — thrilled to possess just found his first big league hit. Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger then walked to Palmer because the pitcher dusted himself off and said, “Hey, kid. You hit a house run.”

“I viewed him and said, ‘Oh bull!'” Palmer remembered. “I thought he was looking to get me to step off the bottom so he could tag me. I wouldn’t log off the bag.”

After finally being convinced that, no, he really had hit a house run, Palmer finished his trot round the bases.

“There is about 10 guys standing hopefully laughing their [butts] off. And here I hit a house run! I’m filthy, dirty, no helmet, and this business are laughing in the home plate,” Palmer said.

Phillies manager Gene Mauch

Palmer saved perhaps his greatest, most baseball-flake story for the finish: Your day he was demoted to the Minor Leagues for dating Phillies manager Gene Mauch’s daughter.

While residing at the Jack Tar Hotel in Clearwater, Fla., during Spring Training, Palmer noticed a stylish woman outside by the pool. After making an introduction, both started talking. Palmer said he was there searching for a job, as the young woman admitted she was on holiday with her father. So, before Palmer left, they made plans to meet up that evening to catch a movie.

Ah, the makings of a vintage rom-com mixup.

Dressing to impress, Palmer placed on a good shirt and white pants — an ideal Florida outfit — and found some snacks and sodas for each of them. Prior to the picture began, they talked a bit more, with Palmer joking he was a “big baseball player” with the Phillies.

“I really like the Phillies. I’m from Philadelphia,” she responded. “MY FATHER can be your manager!”

“My legs closed round the Coke between my legs,” Palmer squealed. “I had white pants with Coke all along them.”

Despite learning these details, Palmer didn’t end the night time early. Following the movie ended, both went for a walk down the beach and rented just a little boat to row out onto the water. Well, both enjoyed each other’s company a touch too much to spotlight the existing. Eventually, Palmer looked up and realized he could no more start to see the lights from the beach. That they had drifted out.

Palmer started rowing as fast as he could, eventually achieving the sand in regards to a half-mile from where they had a need to return the boat.

“I’m dragging this boat completely down the beach,” Palmer said. “We do not get back [to the hotel] ’til three o’clock. Guess who’s sitting in the lobby? Mr. Gene Mauch.”

The clearly displeased father and manager didn’t do much that night. “I’ll see you at eight o’clock,” is all Mauch told Palmer.

“Anyway, in regards to a week later, I was gone,” Palmer said. “[Mauch] said, ‘This isn’t because you went with my daughter, this is actually the way the complete organization feels.’

Palmer provides little grunt, amused but still perturbed in the end these years. “Yeah, right!”

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