Jim Thome, the hay-baling Illinois farm boy with a knack for making opposing pitchers look incompetent, crossed the 600 home run mark last night by hitting two opposite field shots to reach the milestone. The feat that puts him in a rather legendary club to which only seven former sluggers can claim membership.
600 home runs is a hallowed number, and unless evidence proves that he was assisted by steroids or other banned substances, Thome deserves to be celebrated like the all-time great that he is. He doesn’t get the pub of fellow ’90s mashers Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa or Alex Rodriguez, but his stats are equally impressive, and to top it all off, he’s known for being one of the nicest guys in the sport. Even if you don’t give two sh*ts about baseball, appreciate the fact that he made it to the plateau through legitimate talent and respect for both himself, his teammates and his opponents and the game, if you want to get romantic over the fact.
My relationship with Thome dates back to his days as a Cleveland Indian, an era where everybody in northeast Ohio had a love affair with Chief Wahoo. Between Thome, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton (and Robbie Alomar), those ’90s Indians teams were better than any team, even if they never actually won a ring. Thome was a premier talent when he left for Philadelphia in 2002, a fact that led many a Cleveland fan to hate on the guy. As his career wanes and the fact dawns on me that he’ll be enshrined in Cooperstown with a Wahoo fitted, I find myself forgiving and actively rooting for him. A class act through-and-through, number 25 deserves every accolade that comes his way.