Thome gets emo­tional

Slug­ger fights back tears dur­ing HoF visit

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS -

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — To know what the mo­ment meant to Jim Thome, all you had to do was look into his tear-filled eyes.

“It’s hard to ex­plain the emo­tions that go through you,” Thome said Tues­day as he gazed around the Base­ball Hall of Fame’s Plaque Gallery, the most hal­lowed cor­ner of the shrine and where he’ll take his place in July. “How do you ever dream of this hap­pen­ing, walk­ing through and hav­ing all those great play­ers stare at you?”

Thome got the call in Jan­uary when he was elected along with Chip­per Jones, Vladimir Guer­rero and Trevor Hoff­man. Also to be in­ducted July 29 are Jack Mor­ris and Alan Tram­mell, who were se­lected in De­cem­ber by a veter­ans com­mit­tee.

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, the left-hand­ed­hit­ting Thome was a pure slug­ger with the sweet­est of swings. Drafted by the Cleve­land In­di­ans on the 13th round in 1989 out of Illi­nois Cen­tral Col­lege, he hit 612 homers, eighth all-time, and drove in 1,699 runs in a 22-year ca­reer with six teams. Thome, who hit 17 homers in the post­sea­son, also had 13 walk-off home runs, still the ma­jor-league stan­dard.

There have been just over 19,000 men to ap­pear in a ma­jor league game, and the Hall of Fame has just 323 elected mem­bers, in­clud­ing 226 play­ers. Of those, 128 have been voted in by the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, and only 54, in­clud­ing Thome, were picked in their first year of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“How do you ever en­vi­sion that?” Thome said. “As you’re play­ing you don’t play to make it to the Hall of Fame. You play to win. You play to do well, to be a guy that helps your club win. Then this ca­reer hap­pens and you look back, and then to have some­body say that you’re one of 54. There’s some­thing spe­cial about it. You hold your chest out a lit­tle more.”

In his long ca­reer, Thome reached the World Se­ries only twice, in 1995 and 1997. The In­di­ans lost to the Braves in six games in the first one and were two outs from a ti­tle in the sec­ond be­fore the Florida Mar­lins ral­lied in the bot­tom of the ninth and won Game 7 in 11 in­nings.

“Look­ing back, I think the cham­pi­onship al­ways mo­ti­vated me to every year pre­pare, but this is such a spe­cial thing, too,” Thome said.

The tour, which helps in­ductees pre­pare for their big day, takes them through every cor­ner of the Hall of Fame, to the base­ment where most get to swing a bat Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig once wielded, to the li­brary up­stairs with its vast col­lec­tion of news­pa­per clip­pings and pho­tos, and cul­mi­nates in the Plaque Gallery.

There were too many plaques to read on this day, but Thome took his time and stopped at sev­eral — Babe Ruth, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, and oth­ers — as his wife An­drea cap­tured the mo­ment.

The emo­tion was pal­pa­ble af­ter Erik Strohl of the Hall of Fame men­tioned off the cuff that among Amer­i­can League slug­gers, only Ruth had reached 500 homers faster than Thome.

“It’s a dream,” Thome said as he hugged his host, tears welling in his eyes. “To come through here and soon to be on the wall with them, it’s be­yond spe­cial. You don’t ever en­vi­sion an op­por­tu­nity to walk down this hall and have all this star­ing at you. I just feel hon­ored.”

As­so­ci­Ated press viA NA­tioNAl BAse­BAll HAll of fAme viA

In this photo pro­vided by the Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame and Mu­seum, for­mer Cleve­land In­di­ans slug­ger Jim Thome demon­strates his swing in the Plaque Gallery dur­ing his ori­en­ta­tion tour Tues­day of the Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame and Mu­seum Thome...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.