Remembering Jim Thome

Former Cleveland Indians slugger Jim Thome was just selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week in his first year on the ballot. He is deserving if for no other reason than his 612 lifetime home runs. I was not aware that he has the most walk off home runs in MLB history with 13. There are any number of other stats that could prove his worth, but that is not the point of this post.

As a lifelong Indians fan, I have a number of “favorites” but I’m not sure I could pick anyone over Jim Thome. You have to like someone who #1 performs, #2 stays out of trouble off the field and #3 loved being in Cleveland. Some players could not wait to get out of the city; Thome was not one of them.

When I think of Jim Thome, two things come to mind. The first being when he left Cleveland for Philadelphia. I really thought if a player was going to take less money to stay in Cleveland it would be Thome. He loved Cleveland and Cleveland loved him back. Alas he did leave and that was sad, but I understood the reasoning.

Thome was the premier free agent that offseason and even though Cleveland offered him $75,000,000 over five years, the Phillies offered $105,000,000. I was disappointed that he left, but how do you turn down an extra $30,000,000? Perhaps more significantly I think he was under a lot of pressure from the player’s association to “set the bar” for other free agents to benefit from. For these two reasons no one was totally upset with his decision.

The other thing I remember about him was a camera shot of him in the dugout after striking out. In fact it is the most indelible sports image I’ve ever seen. Standing between Thome’s legs was the young (maybe 8 years old) son of Ellis Burks. The boy had his hands on Thome’s shoulders like he was letting him know that everything would be OK. It was not lost on me that the boy was black and Thome was white. In a world where racism still amazingly exists, this image was burned into my brain. It makes me smile to just think about it. If only everyone was colorblind!!!

The view from my seat suggests that Jim Thome is certainly deserving of this honor and Cleveland Indian fans everywhere should be happy for him.