MINNEAPOLIS -- Steve Palermo will be on hand for the World Series, after all.
Denied the opportunity to umpire in the Series because of a spinal injury suffered when he was shot while foiling a robbery in Dallas, Palermo said yesterday he has accepted an invitation from commissioner Fay Vincent to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 on Saturday night at the Metrodome.
The Minnesota Twins will represent the American League against the winner of the NL playoff between Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
"That's the goal I am pointing toward now, Saturday night," said Palermo, who has been rehabilitating in Dallas since he was shot in the back early on the morning of July 7. "I'll go to the mound and throw the ball. I've been practicing that in therapy . . . stepping off 60 feet, six inches [the distance from the mound to home plate], throwing a ball and keeping my balance."
Had the shooting not occurred, Palermo likely would have been one of the three AL umpires selected to work the World Series. Consistently voted one of the top three umpires in the AL, he has not worked a World Series since 1983.
"I know there was a good possibility I would have worked this year," said Palermo, who has 15 years of experience.
The Series umpire crew will not be announced until the NL playoffs conclude this week.
The World Series is just one of two big dates on Palermo's calendar. After watching Games 1 and 2 in Minnesota this weekend, he will return to Dallas on Monday, complete four more days of work at the Dallas Rehabilitation Center, and go home to Overland Park, Kan., to continue his rehabilitation.
Since being shot, Palermo made his first appearance on a baseball field at Arlington Stadium on Oct. 5, taking part in the pre-game meeting at home plate between the umpires and managers and then threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"It sounds corny, but I felt comfortable, like I was somewhere I belonged," Palermo said. "That's the most comfortable I have felt since I was shot."