07/13/2004 12:27 AM ET
Powers that be in awe of old guard
Today's best get chance to pay respects to HR legends
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- With 541 home runs, Rafael Palmeiro is now eight away from moving past Mike Schmidt and into the top 10 on the all-time list. On this priceless Monday at Minute Maid Park, he posed next to Schmidt in the Ultimate Group Photo, relishing every minute as the 500 Home Run Club's 14 living members gathered.
|Barry Bonds shakes hands with Reggie Jackson at Minute Maid Field in Houston on Monday. (Charles Krupa/AP)
These were the powers that were, and the powers that be.
The Dignitaries of the Dinger.
"That was an incredible, emotional thing," Palmeiro said after slugging away in the Century 21 Home Run Derby, where he reached the semifinals and watched Oriole teammate Miguel Tejada win it all. "Just being with all the guys, to mingle and rub elbows, was special. They're all great in their own way.
"I've known Reggie (Jackson) very well. I played with Eddie (Murray). I had a chance to do some charity things with Hank (Aaron). I'd met them all before, but it's a great accomplishment that Major League Baseball got every living member here. That's not an easy thing to do under any circumstances."
Tejada, who set the record for most longballs in a Home Run Derby -- including the highest score (15) of any single round -- said it was inspiring to see the historic assemblage as a backdrop for his work.
"I saw those guys walking in front of me -- I just get shivers because it's unbelievable. I never think I'm going to have these guys close to me. I know growing up in the big leagues, being so close to these guys, it's unbelievable. I don't think I'm going to forget this day today."
Boston's David Ortiz, who became Tejada's biggest cheerleader during the event, said being in the presence of legends was "unbelievable."
"I was kind of shaking out there," he said. "I said, 'Wow, we got too many home runs here together. I said, 'Wow, it's crazy.'
"It has an effect on you on the field. You might have Reggie Jackson one time, sitting in the seats, when you're at Yankee Stadium. You might one day have (Mark) McGwire watching a game that you're at. But all of them together while you are batting, that's a lot. That's a lot of longballs."
Hank Blalock, the Rangers' slugger who ranks fourth in the Majors at the break with 23, hit three in the first round and was unable to advance. He also paused afterward to express admiration for the fabulous 14.
"It was something else," he said. "Here I am, 23 years old, and the media are telling me tonight I have 55 home runs in my career. To be able to shake hands with all of those legends, it wasn't something I ever expected. It was really cool."
Philadelphia's Jim Thome, this season's home run leader with 28, left after a first round of four homers. Before the Home Run Derby began, he said this was going to be a memory to cherish for a lifetime -- and stories to absorb.
"Whenever you get those names together, with what they did, it's great because those are the best guys in the game," Thome said. "It'll be nice to be able to ask them questions. I think we all should."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.