On Sunday in Chicago, Jim Thome hit Home Run #500. It was a walk-off game winner to beat the Angels 9-7. His father Chuck and his wife Andrea were in attendance. Big Jim is the 23rd member of the 500 Home Run club, and the first to enter the club with a walk-off homer. He is a class act, an all around good guy, and my all-time favorite player.Mr. Incredible - Mlb.com full page
As you all know, Jimmy started his career with the Tribe and played 12 years in Cleveland and left as the Indians all-time Home Run King with 323. He started as a third baseman and made the move to first in 1997. He was always our guy. A home grown talent, with the aw-shucks personality and demeanor. Yet nobody wanted to win here more than Thome. When he left via free agency in 2003 for Philadelphia, the bitter fans of Cleveland seemingly turned their backs on him. He was a guy who said he would never leave Cleveland. He met his wife here, he loved the community, and the community loved him. But a guaranteed sixth year for an additional $16 million was too much for this payroll to handle; and rightfully so. To this day, not matching the Thome contract Philly was offering was the smart play. Thome's deal would have hamstrung this franchise and he would have assuredly been dealt within two years.
I wrote a piece about this for The Cleveland Fan website, now owned by Sportstime Ohio, when Big Jim made his initial return in '06. It sickened me to watch fans boo the man they once cheered the loudest for. People still boo him here to this day. Anyone who boos Jim Thome in Cleveland should have their tickets revoked. When he goes into the Hall of Fame, it will be wearing an Indians cap. He gave this city everything he had. The team was going into rebuilding mode. He deserved a chance at a title and big money, two things he wasn't going to get here. What would you have done? I have linked below some articles and the video of his postgame press conference. Just watch it. You tell me there is a better guy in baseball than Jim Thome. He is as real as they come. Congratulations, Big Jim. You deserve it.
Defending Jim Thome - Todd Dery, theclevelandfan.com
Nicely Done - Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
Thome Likely Needs 600 to Reach HOF - Rob Neyer, espn.com