A despondent, dispirited and pained Jim Palmer -- booed by Memorial Stadium fans, openly criticized by his manager, his pitching coach and his teammates -- was routed in Memorial Stadium today, 7-1, by the California Angels.
Palmer performed as though in a daze, devoid of emotion, even when Don Baylor hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Butch Hobson knocked him out of the game with a two-run homer with just one out in the second inning.
Steve Renko, with a 6.70 lifetime earned run average against Baltimore, allowed no hits for four innings before being forced out with tightness in his right shoulder. Renko was lifted after issuing his sixth walk to open the fifth and with a 1-0 count on Al Bumbry. Andy Hassler (4-1) allowed a Baltimore run in the sixth on a single by Doug DeCinces and a double by Rick Dempsey.
Oriole first baseman Eddie Murray was struck in the left eye by a foul off his own bat in the sixth and had to leave the game. Bumbry hurt his hand while striking out. Murray, with a black eye, will have X-rays Monday, but both are also expected to play Monday.
Earlier in the game, according to Weaver, when he arrived at the mound to remove Palmer, he asked, "Do you have any physical problems?"
"I'm seeing a doctor tomorrow," said Palmer, according to Weaver, before walking off the mound to substantial boos.
"When I heard those boos, I felt physically nauseated," said Weaver. "How can anyone boo Jim Palmer after 245 victories? The only person who felt more hurt than me when that happened was Palmer."
But these are days when baseball seems to hold little but pain for Palmer, the golden boy who found the game so easy when he won 20 games eight times in nine seasons, a streak that ended just three seasons ago, although it now seems part of another baseball lifetime.
After the game, Baltimore's team physician said that Palmer would immediately undergo examination for "possible damage or chronic irritation to the supra scapular nerve in the posterior aspect of his right shoulder."
"Palmer's telling people his career could be over," said Weaver. "He's right, I guess. His career could be over."
In a press release, the Orioles said of the pitcher's injury: ". . . Palmer may have entrapment of the supra scapular nerve as a result of scar tissue from previous muscle injuries. Palmer is going to receive treatment in the next few days to determine if this diagnosis is correct. If it is confirmed, then there is the possibility that surgery may be considered."
If Palmer needs surgery, he would be unable to pitch for three months, according to the team physician.
Before the game, Palmer arrived in the clubhouse with two 1974 medical journals (describing the supra scapular syndrome) and called a meeting with Weaver and team doctor Leonard Wallenstein.
"He brought in the medical journals. He's been to an orthopedic consultant and thinks he's found out what's wrong with his neck and shoulder . . . That's a fact," said Weaver, sad and amused at the same time. "Don't nobody laugh, 'cause Jimmy's serious about it, and Leonard's readin' 'em.
"Nobody could look that bad and not have something wrong with 'em, certainly not Palmer," said Weaver after the 37-pitch performance that ended after five runs and four outs. "How could he look so good for five innings in both Oakland and Seattle (in his last two starts), hell, look like a 22-year-old kid, then look that bad today if there's nothin' wrong with him . . . ?
"I guess I should have gone to medical school," said Weaver. " . . . I know what he feels like. I got arm (nerve damage) problems, too. But I only have to raise my arm to call in relief pitchers. So, it only hurts when I have to call in a right-hander."
Weaver can still have his black-humor jokes.
"I've had to say goodbye to great ones here . . . Paul Blair, Brooks Robinson . . . They all come to the end of the line . . .
"It's reached the point we can't protect Palmer any more," said Weaver, referring to giving him both more, and earlier, bullpen help than other Oriole pitchers. What Weaver didn't say, but almost certainly means, is that the Baltimore brass has also decided to take the gloves off in handling Palmer in other areas as well.
Palmer has been upset for the past day since learning that both Weaver and Pitching Coach Ray Miller have decided to go public with their displeasure at what Weaver calls "Jimmy's problem -- he's got to stop blaming everybody but himself for everything."
Palmer, 35, the picture of poster-boy good health in the nation's eyes, is, in fact, an athlete of Hall of Fame stature who is, at this hour, in the bitterest segment of his career.
"It's the worst I've ever seen Palmer pitch in my life," Weaver said today.
It has been common knowledge for several seasons that Palmer has had the knack for irritating many of his teammates with what they see as demands for special treatment. Palmer has even taken to calling himself, jokingly, a "hypochondriac" . . . and a "prima donna."
At the hour when Palmer's national fame -- as a television broadcaster, underwear celebrity and national sex symbol -- is at its height, his baseball career is in the pits. His teammates rip him publicly, as both third baseman DeCinces and right fielder Ken Singleton have done this year.
Palmer dressed quickly today and left the locker room without comment. However, in the baseball world, a 4-6 record with three complete games in 16 starts speaks more eloquently.