By David Brandt/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Rafael Palmeiro is now a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He hopes someday Cooperstown comes calling as well.
But he’s not going to grovel.
“My lobbying was done on the field,” Palmeiro said. “That’s it. I’m done lobbying. If that’s not good enough, I’m not going to beg these writers who have the power of the vote. I’m not going to say anything to them. If what I did on the field isn’t good enough for them, then I’m good with it.”
Palmeiro was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night in downtown Jackson. The 47-year-old played his college ball at Mississippi State during the early 1980s, when he and Will Clark were part of a formidable lineup that led the Bulldogs to the College World Series.
Palmeiro later became one of just four players in big league history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers, but his stellar career was overshadowed by a positive test for performance enhancing drugs just weeks after collecting his 3,000th hit in 2005. The failed test was even more embarrassing considering Palmeiro previously testified in front of Congress that he had never taken PEDs, famously waving his finger in defiance.
He claimed the anabolic steroid was in a vitamin vial given to him by Baltimore Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada.
He still sticks to that story. But for the most part, it appears the big league hall of fame’s voters either don’t believe him or don’t care. His name was on just 12.6 percent of the ballots this year — well below the 75 percent needed for induction.
“People are waiting for me to slip and make a different story,” Palmeiro said. “That’s not going to happen. It happened the way that it happened.”
It’s been a similar fate for other stars from the so-called “steroid era.” Mark McGwire is the most obvious example, but three other prominent stars from that era — including Barry Bonds Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa — become eligible for the Hall this year.
Palmeiro believes they should all be in Cooperstown.
“Those are the best players in that era, no matter what,” Palmeiro said. “So judge us on that. If you want to put asterisks on it, I don’t care. Judge the players in the era they played in.”
Mississippi sports Hall of Fame executive director Rick Cleveland said Palmeiro was selected by a state-wide committee. Palmeiro, who grew up in Miami, gave $1 million to Mississippi State in 2004 to help build an indoor practice facility for baseball and football.
“He’s arguably the best college baseball player ever in Mississippi,” Cleveland said. “And that’s before steroids were even an issue … Also, so many guys go off, make millions professionally, and never give a dime back. Rafael Palmeiro gave $1 million.”
Palmeiro was at ease during Friday’s festivities, shaking hands and laughing with other Mississippi State alumni, including former NBA star Jeff Malone, who was also honored on Friday.
“No matter what Hall of Fame it is, it’s always nice to be recognized for doing something extraordinary,” Palmeiro said. “It’s a great honor. I never envisioned having days like today. I didn’t play for this stuff. But you play for long enough, you sometimes get recognized and this is a great honor.”
Palmeiro says being back in Mississippi brings back good memories. He now lives in Dallas, and his son, Patrick, was recently drafted by the Chicago White Sox.
“(Playing at Mississippi State) was a ball,” Palmeiro said. “It was just a great experience. You don’t duplicate that in the minors. The big leagues are a different deal — it’s a job.”
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP