blog by BuffaloDotCom • August 18, 2011 @ 12:04pm
Jim Thome, former Cleveland Indians’ great and stand-up guy, hit his 600th homerun against the Detroit Tigers on Monday. This achievement has him firmly entrenched as one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history. His 600th dinger places him 8th all time, ahead of icons such as Reggie Jackson, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.
Currently with the Minnesota Twins, the 40-year-old Thome is well into the twilight of his career. He fills the role of occasional designated hitter and situational fill in, far from the superstar first baseman of his prime. You would think that a player of his caliber would be closed-minded when accepting such a lesser role, especially with a team that looks destined to miss the post-season, but Thome has taken it in stride. In recent years, Thome has embraced the responsibility of mentoring budding superstars Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
Thome should be remembered for the integrity he displayed on and off the field. In an era where power numbers were skewed due to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, Thome did it the old fashioned way. Like the true baseball greats before him, Thome achieved success by taking extra swings during batting practice and by becoming a true student of the game. His effort and ability to approach baseball with diligence and honesty, during a period of taint and disrespect, deserves true admiration.
Buffalonians should remember Thome most for his rehab stints with the Bisons and for his towering long ball that nearly hit the parking ramp in right field of (then) North Americare Park. That pre-season exhibition game against the Bisons would be the start to the Indians 1995 World Series run, as well as the beginning of a little brother-big brother relationship.
Under the tutelage of the Indians, the Bisons saw a rejuvenation of talent and popularity. It was during this “renaissance” that the Bisons won the Governor’s Cup in 1997 and 1998. That 13 year partnership also saw Buffalo help develop a legion of young talent for the Indians such as Bartolo Colon, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Brandon Philips. These memorable names can all still be seen in the majors, but like the Bisons, they’ve all parted ways with the Tribe.
If Buffalo ever received the Major League Baseball team it was promised in the ‘90s, Thome would have been welcomed to the club with open arms. He seems like the player that Buffalo sports fans love to cheer for: an honest, hardworking underdog, admired by teammates and opposition alike. Congrats on 600 Jim, we tip our caps to you.
—- This article was submitted by Pat Fetzer, soon-to-be senior at Niagara University and current The Buffalo News sales intern.