Palmeiro hits 500th home run

Rafael Palmeiro now walks with baseball’s giants.

The Texas Rangers’ first baseman became the 19th member of one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs Sunday when he slugged his 500th home run in the seventh inning of the Rangers’ 17-10 victory over the Cleveland Indians game at The Ballpark in Arlington.

It leaves Palmeiro four home runs behind Eddie Murray, the hitting coach for the Indians who is 18th on the all-time home run list with 504. Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is in 17th place with 505.

Murray tipped his cap to Palmeiro as he rounded third base, and a Mother’s Day crowd of 23,407 offered the first of three standing ovations.

“I knew I got it,” Palmeiro said of the home run, which came on a full count with the Rangers leading 13-5.

“Once I touched first base, I had kind of a numb feeling going around the rest of the bases,” he said.

The home run came in Palmeiro’s last at-bat of a six-game homestand.

That it came on Mother’s Day was of special significance, too. His wife, Lynne, had predicted that he would hit the monumental homer on this day, and his mother made a special request the night before.

“I talked to my mom before she went to bed,” Palmeiro said. “She said, ‘All I want for Mother’s Day is you to hit that 500th home run.’ I said, ‘Thanks for not adding any pressure.'”

Palmeiro, 38, has evolved into one of baseball’s most intriguing stories, partly because in many ways he reflects the evolution of the game toward a more diverse population of players, as well as the weightier importance on the glamour of the home run.

In many ways, Palmeiro is the least likely hitter of 500 home runs.

“He is a great hitter with a classic swing,” said Rangers general manager John Hart, who coached a Miami high school team that competed against Palmeiro.

“You know, he’s a very understated man who has not let stardom affect him.”

Palmeiro’s standing in the game has often been diminished by critiques that he has never been the best player on any team for which he has played, he has never been the dominant player at his position, and none of his teams has won a World Series.

Still, there’s nothing understated about hitting 500 home runs, or hitting 343 of them and not playing less than 143 games a year from 1995 to the present.

Those are the numbers of giants.