Magazine readers in the mid-1970s must have reacted with surprise when they suddenly found themselves staring at a full-page color photograph of a handsome, well-built man in his early 30s wearing nothing but a smile and a pair of Jockey-brand underwear. And this wasn't just any man but superstar pitcher Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles and he wasn't wearing a modest pair of nearly-knee-length boxers but rather a trimly-cut pair of briefs. What's more, he didn't assume the discreet pose of the usual underwear model but instead boldly presented himself in such a way as to draw attention to the healthy-sized bulge between his legs. Finally, he didn't display the smoothly-shaved chest of the usual male model but rather sported a healthy growth of dark body hair which unapologetically covered the front of his torso from his collarbones down to his briefs' elastic waistband.
Today these features would not be surprising but in the Jimmy Carter era of some 30 years ago, they attracted considerable attention and comment and made Palmer as well-known to the general public as he was to baseball enthusiasts. The magazine ads must have bolstered Jockey sales as well because the company continued their use into the early 1980s. Even now these ads, torn from such magazines as "Sports Illustrated," can be found offered for sale on eBay.
One wonders what Jim Palmer thought of this phenomenon. He projected a wholesome, "guy next door" image -- handsome but not pretty, physical but not threatening -- yet, in a sense, he was being exploited in ways similar to porn actors. This seems especially true when he graduated from Jockey's regular line of briefs to the scanty "bikini" briefs which, just a generation before, could only have been found modeled in "physique" magazines sold, more or less under the counter, to gay readers. Palmer's poses also grew more provocative, culminating in one in which he stands with his left foot firmly planted on the floor while his right foot is raised to rest on the seat of a chair. This pose forced Palmer to stand with spread-open thighs, thus focusing attention on his bulging crotch as surely as if a glow-in-the-dark bulls-eye had been painted on it.
Despite what some would consider "indignities," however, Palmer's reputation did not suffer because of these ads and he accepted his increasingly iconic status with good humor. Though he must have received financially-tempting offers, he did not follow the example of fellow athletes Jim Brown and Dan Pastorini who posed naked for "Playgirl" magazine. This reticence must have been due to Palmer's innate sense of what is proper rather than to any fear that he would not "measure up" if he stepped out of those briefs and, in the parlance of the 60s, "let it all hang out."