53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro is back, agrees to pro baseball deal


Deep down, Rafael Palmeiro has to know he’s never getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He dropped off the ballot in 2014 after receiving just 4.4 percent of the vote, making him the only player in Major League Baseball history to have 3,000 hits (actually 3,020) and 500 home runs (569) not to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Instead, of course, Raffy will always be remembered for his pointed (literally and figuratively) statement before a Senate committee investigating steroid use in MLB back in 2005, saying, “I have never used steroids.”

As we all now know, Palmeiro tested positive for PEDs and was suspended shortly after his 3,000 hit, never playing in the bigs again.

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Back in January, the former first baseman floated out the idea that he’d like to make a comeback — at age 53.

Not surprisingly, the idea was met with a resounding silence, and no team offered him so much as a spring training invite.

Now, a couple of months shy of turning 54, Palmeiro announced he’s getting back on the field — with the Cleburne Railroaders of the independent American Association.

This will be a family occasion, as his oldest son, Patrick, is also joining the Railroaders roster.

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The team had not announced the signings as of Wednesday morning, and they were not listed in the league’s transactions.

The last time Raffy played full-time in the minors was in 1987. (He made a one-game comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League back in 2015 to celebrate his 50th birthday. Patrick also played in that game.)

Palmeiro insists this isn’t a public relations move, telling the Dallas Morning News via text that he wants back in the majors.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Nobody gave me a chance to go to spring training, so I will just take this path.”

When the idea was first hatched earlier this year, the slugger told the Morning News that he realizes his name has already been tainted, so why not give a comeback a shot?

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“I believe I have a lot to offer,” Palmeiro said. “I don’t know what it will do for my career, but how much more can my career be damaged at this point? I’m not sure there is much more for me to lose. But I do think there is something to be gained and not just for myself. I believe it could be a win-win.”

In the highly unlikely event that he does make it back to the major leagues, his Hall of Fame clock would reset, and five years after he stops playing again, voters could take another look at his candidacy.

That probably won’t be necessary, but anyone interested will begin to see what Raffy has left on May 18, when the Railroaders take on the Winnipeg Eyes in the season opener.

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Mike is an 11-time Michigan Emmy Award winner who has spent nearly 30 years working in sports media.
Mike has spent nearly 30 years in all aspects of sports media, including on-air, 10 at ESPN and another 10 at Fox Sports Detroit. He now works as a TV agent, and lives with his family in West Bloomfield, MI.
Sudbury, Massachusetts
11-time Michigan Emmy winner
Emerson College
Books Written
The Longest Year: One Family's Journey Of Life, Death, And Love/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Lions
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