The once bulbous bat boy for the Buffalo Bisons enjoys marriage and fatherhood, but hardly visits his old stomping grounds where he once reigned as a Buffalo icon.
If you ask Buffalonians if they remember Donald Palmer, you're not likely to get much more than a quizzical stare.
But if you ask them if they remember his 1980's alter-ego, "The Butcher", it will most likely stir fond memories of summers past.
Two decades ago, Butcher was a bonafide Western New York icon as the Bat Boy for the Buffalo Bisons.
The very sight of him was enough to make people do a double take, with his considerable girth (425 lbs.) stuffed into a uniform. But his appearance belied his actual athletic ability.
Butcher would delight fans at War Memorial Stadium; first with his ability to somehow make it over to behind home plate to catch foul balls rolling off the back-stop net. He would further amaze them by non-chalantly snaring them behind his back, in his hat, or even dribble the ball with his feet ala a game of hackey-sak.
"Just fooling around," he recalls nearly a quarter of a century later.
He also recalls how it all came to an end shortly after the Bisons moved to their new downtown ballpark in the late 80's. At the time, Buffalo was being given serious consideration for a Major League team and as Palmer recalls it the decision was made that a rotund bat boy was not "major league material."
He was given a job with the Bisons behind the scenes, but the days of delighting the crowds were gone. Like a child star, his career was over at 21.
"I was crushed," he recalls. "I felt like nobody wanted me, nobody wanted to be my friend,” he said.
Though no longer bitter, Palmer confesses he never got over it either. "No, I never did,” he said. "And I doubt I ever will."
These days Palmer works for the City of Buffalo Streets Department fixing traffic lights and signs. He moonlights at the pro shop at Fireman’s Park Ice Arena in Depew which he operates with his father, and picks up extra money umpiring bar league softball games. He also dabbles in stock car racing.
"The Butcher" is also about 65lbs. under his "playing weight" as a result of his efforts to take better care of himself. He revealed that he has heart problems and diabetes; medical maladies which claimed the lives of many of his relatives in their early 40's. He is now 41.
He is also married and has a son, Rob Ray Palmer, whom he named after his good friend and former Buffalo Sabres standout Rob Ray.
Palmer rarely attends Bisons games, estimating he's gone to "maybe 5 in the last 20 years." It's not that he harbors any ill feelings about the Bisons but rather that, "I guess I just saw my share of games by working at them back then."
That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t miss his days of celebrity. In fact Palmer is the first to admit it, and grows quiet when saying so.
"On an odd day you'll catch me saying no…. but deep down inside...yeah... I miss it," he began, before perking up to say, "I'd start again tomorrow if (Bisons General Manager) Mike Buczkowski gave me a call!"
"The Butcher" got a brief chance to re-live his glory days last summer when he was invited along with Buster, The Earl of Bud, and several other earlier day celebrities to participate in a Bisons anniversary event.
“I gotta tell you," he began, "When I put on that uniform and trotted out to that field I was, for one day at least, back on top of the world."