By Ryan Isley
Former Indians slugger Jim Thome is about to hit himself into the record books and it could happen in his old stomping grounds when he attempts to hit his 600th career home run this weekend at Progressive Field. Thome enters the weekend just two home runs shy of the historic mark as the Minnesota Twins come to town for a three-game series with the Indians.
Unfortunately, you may not have heard about it because it has been pretty hush-hush from the commissioner’s office and the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’.
One thing that does not make any sense is that when Alex Rodriguez was in pursuit of No. 600, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig fawned all over him and had special baseballs put in play every time the known cheater came to the plate. Every time Rodriguez moved, someone from ESPN was there with coverage. I even wrote at the time that people needed to stop making a big deal about it because of Rodriguez’s history.
Now that Thome – someone who has never even been accused of cheating – is closing in on the milestone, there has been hardly a peep.
There are only seven men who have hit 600 or more home runs in their Major League career. Take a look at the members of the 600-home run club for a minute: Barry Bonds (762)*, Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey, Jr. (630), Alex Rodriguez (626)*, Sammy Sosa (609)*.
Now take out all of the players with asterisks who have either been caught using performance enhancing substances or have at least been accused of using them with reasonable suspicion. That narrows it down to just four players who can say they hit 600 or more legitimate home runs in the Major Leagues – Aaron, Ruth, Mays and Griffey, Jr.
While it may not be big news everywhere else, it should be big news in Cleveland.
If Thome reaches that milestone this weekend, it will be the 187th and 188th home runs that he has hit at Progressive Field, which of course was Jacob’s Field when Thome was larger than life in Cleveland. That would be 89 more than he has hit at the second friendliest park in his career – U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Thome played for the Indians from 1991-2002 and was a fan favorite until that fateful day in December, 2002 when he decided to sign as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ever since that day, there has been a certain percentage of Indians fans that have booed Thome every time he steps to the plate at Progressive Field. The time for that to stop is this weekend.
Thome came up through the Indians organization and a lot of fans who saw him play in Cleveland also saw him play for the Canton-Akron Indians in Double-A on his way to the Major Leagues (myself included).
We all enjoyed the years he played for the Indians and the memories from those magical World Series runs of 1995 and 1997. Thome hit 17 career home runs while playing for the Indians – still most in Indians postseason history. Thome clubbed 334 home runs as an Indian – also the most in franchise history.
Who will ever forget some of the majestic bombs Thome hit to the picnic area at then-Jacob’s Field?
It is on the fans of Cleveland to do something they do not like to always do – cheer for the enemy. Remember, he was once one of us. Nobody can ever take away the moments he had while playing in Cleveland – even if you really want to because you do not understand how he could walk away. He did and it needs to be water under the bridge now. Thome did not orchestrate anything like “The Decision” nor did he badmouth Cleveland on his way out of town.
More than just the fans, it is also on the Indians organization to celebrate the milestone should it happen in Cleveland. They should have a congratulations message on the scoreboard aimed at one of the greatest players to ever wear their uniform. The Indians were able to put graphics on the scoreboard when they were no-hit by Ervin Santana so I am sure with some extra preparation time they can have something worked up for Thome. It would only be appropriate.
Do us all a favor this weekend if Thome hits No. 600 Cleveland – cheer for the baseball history you are witnessing and give the man his due. Above all – show some class and do not give the national media or fans any more fodder for their entertainment.
After watching how the fans of Cleveland cheered for Santana after that 27th out, I have faith in Cleveland to do the right thing.