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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cleveland Indians will unveil statue of home-run leader Jim Thome on Aug. 2

The statue honoring Jim Thome, the Indians all-time home run hitter, will be unveiled on Aug. 2 at Progressive Field.

Thome, talking Saturday at Tribe Fest, said he’s overwhelmed by it.

“All I can tell you it’s going to be pretty awesome,” said Thome, who works as a special assistant for the White Sox. “ “How do you ever imagine, when you play this game, getting an opportunity to have an organization put a statute up of you? I’m a little lost for words.

“As a player, I don’t even want to say you dream of that. When it happens, when the opportunity comes about, it’s humbling. It’s just a wonderful thing. My family is just ecstatic about it.”

Lakewood sculptor Dave Deming made the statue. It shows Thome pointing the bat toward the mound.

“I started pointing the bat when I was in the minors,” said Thome. “We were playing in Scranton, but I don’t remember the year.”

Charlie Manuel, a minor league hitting coach for the Indians at the time, suggested it to Thome after watching Robert Redford do it in the movie “The Natural.”

“Charlie had seen a clip of Roy Hobbs (the character Redford played in the movie) pointing the bat,” said Thome. “See, when I got in the box, I was tense, everything was tight. He wanted to create that relaxing feeling in the box for me and pointing the bat did that.

“It got my trigger ready to hit.”

Thanks to Butch.

Repoz Posted: January 25, 2014 at 03:49 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cleveland

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   1. John Northey Posted: January 25, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4646287)
Interesting to look him up. A 13th round pick in 1989, made the top 100 for BA in pre-1991 and pre-1992. His first pro season (at 18) he had 0 HR in 213 PA, then 16 the next year which helped get him onto the prospect lists (as did the 1.074 OPS in rookie/A+). Funny that Cleveland left him in AAA as long as they did, parts of 2 seasons and a 3rd full season. His first full season was 1994 (figures) so the slow pace at the end probably cost him 30 or 40 homers. He still would've been short of Willie Mays though and well shy of 3000 hits and 2000 RBI even if given a full shot as early as possible I figure.

Bit surprised how poorly he did in the post-season, just 211/312/448. His extra base hits are very odd though, 2 doubles, 1 triple and 17 home runs (!) with 29 singles. The ALDS killed him with a 181/268/378 in 35 games.

Wonder how his HOF journey will go? Don't recall hearing PED rumours around him but anyone who hit a lot of HR in the 90's is suspect it seems.
   2. Bug Selig Posted: January 25, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4646322)
And he jumped from 0 to 16 home runs! That's all the Chasses of the world need.
   3. Lars6788 Posted: January 25, 2014 at 08:17 PM (#4646344)
He went from an average sized guy in the early 90's to being as big as a house by the end of the decade - he's suspect in my world but to his credit, no taint since he wasn't particularly combative with the media and there would be no reason to attribute the strength he gained to anything but hard work and good living.
   4. Danko Posted: January 25, 2014 at 08:46 PM (#4646351)
The press consensus for Thome was that he was "Country Strong". He basically gets the Frank Thomas pass as a guy who just seemed big and strong in a natural way -- and indeed, it's not as if steroids invented the idea of a big, strong guy who could slug homers. They just enabled guys who weren't naturally big to enter the club.

Thome was basically the baseball reincarnation of Harmon Killebrew. Both were hitters with modest averages who struck out prolifically, but compensated with prodigious power and plate discipline. Both had stone feet but could fake third base early in their career before migrating to first base, where they really belonged. Both had long careers that ended with ~10,000 PA and an OPS+ ~145. Both seemed like ordinary, Midwestern guys who rarely caught headlines for anything besides their play on a baseball field. Both were well liked by their teams' fans. The only reason why their statistics vary like they do is because Killebrew's peak was in the 60s, and Thome's in the Sillyball era. But otherwise, they were two links in the same chain.
   5. cmd600 Posted: January 26, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4646443)
It's not as if steroids invented the idea of a big, strong guy who could slug homers. They just enabled guys who weren't naturally big to enter the club.


Have you seen pictures of Thome in his very early years? He was still a big guy, but not big like he was in the late 90s. I'd compare his body development to McGwire's.
   6. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4646450)
Here's a Thome "prospect" card; here's his rookie card. Here he is late in his career. Judge for yourself.

Seriously, though, Thome got a lot more barrel-chested and big-buttocked as he aged. This is not at all unusual for guys who are in the show at 20.

And of course, there is also considerable precedent for not-very-big guys who could slug a lot of homers. You know, guys like Aaron and Mays.
   7. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 26, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4646454)
I'll defer to Indian fans but this surprises me. Thome was agree at player but he never struck me as a "statue guy" if you will. Is he really that popular in Cleveland?
   8. cmd600 Posted: January 26, 2014 at 12:57 PM (#4646459)
He is ridiculously popular in Cleveland. After drawing 16k the night before acquiring him in 2011, they sold out in his first game back. Somehow Thome avoids the "jerk athlete just looking to get paid" stigma that stuck to Belle and Ramirez (skin complexion was not an insignificant factor here) when they moved on despite Thome leaving in under even more dubious circumstances. He refused when the team tried to trade him for prospects in mid-2002, and then told the team in the winter of 2002 that if they matched the Phillies offer he'd stay. They did, and he went back to the Phillies and got even more, and the Indians decided they were done playing that game. I've got no qualms with a guy leaving for more money, but it's a lot easier to respect when they own up to it.

He's not a statue guy, but the team is desperate to win the fans back, and the town is still stuck in the 90s. There's even an Orel Hershiser (played all of three seasons with the team) bobblehead this season. Thus Thome gets the statue before a lot more qualified guys. I think it's Chief-Wahoo-is-still-your-mascot level pathetic that this isn't for Doby, and that Doby is frequently overlooked by the team.

   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: January 26, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4646461)
Bit surprised how poorly he did in the post-season, just 211/312/448.

And yet if in the bottom of the first inning of this game he'd hit one warning track fly ball just a quarter of an inch up on his bat, he might well have derailed the Yankees' historic 1998 season. The Yanks were down 2 games to 1, after Pettitte had been creamed the night before, following Knoblauch's meltdown in game 2, and if Thome's warning track fly ball had landed in the stands, El Duque would have been facing an instant 3-1 deficit in his first ever postseason start.

Thome had hit two mammoth home runs off Pettitte in game 3, and when that first inning ball took off, nearly everyone in the park thought that he'd hit another, and that the Indians had the Yankees on their heels. But when O'Neill grabbed it against the wall to retire the side, Hernandez then settled down and wound up with a 4 hit shutout. How often history can ride on an almost unnoticed fraction of an inch.
   10. BDC Posted: January 26, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4646465)
Presumably the inscription will read HEY FANS ITS JI
   11. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 26, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4646503)
He's not a statue guy, but the team is desperate to win the fans back, and the town is still stuck in the 90s. There's even an Orel Hershiser (played all of three seasons with the team) bobblehead this season. Thus Thome gets the statue before a lot more qualified guys. I think it's Chief-Wahoo-is-still-your-mascot level pathetic that this isn't for Doby, and that Doby is frequently overlooked by the team.


Yeah, it is a little weird. The only other statue at Progressive Field is Bob Feller. No Lou Boudreau. No Early Wynn. And as you said, no Doby.
   12. Greg K Posted: January 26, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4646538)
I recall a while ago when the Hall of Fame site put out those scouting reports of various players. The Thome and Rolen cards were interesting to read side by side. I believe they were both being scouted as high school shortstops. Thome was described as an athletic guy who would probably have to move to 3B, but could be a very good glove man there. Rolen was described as being a corner outfielder in the major leagues at best. Of course, the Rolen scout did note that he was playing with a sore ankle on the day he saw him play.

Thome hit a walk-off (I think) home run while playing for the Twins near the end of his career. There was a video that had Delmon Young on the on-deck circle in the background with his mouth agape in amazement. I was looking for it to show a friend of mine last night, but MLB videos on youtube are still a bit difficult to find...though the expansion of the MLB youtube channel has made things a lot better.

I was surprised to see Thome is 7th all time in walks and home runs.
   13. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 26, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4646540)
I'll defer to Indian fans but this surprises me. Thome was a great player but he never struck me as a "statue guy" if you will.

Ever see him run first-to-third?
   14. Obo Posted: January 26, 2014 at 06:46 PM (#4646545)
Greg: The Thome/Young play is posted in various places as a gif. Here for example.
   15. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: January 26, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4646546)
The ALDS killed him

I can't be the only person who read this as "The AIDS killed him". Yikes!
   16. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: January 26, 2014 at 06:57 PM (#4646550)
I can't be the only person who read this as "The AIDS killed him". Yikes!


Or the ALS killed him.
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: January 26, 2014 at 07:39 PM (#4646552)

too soon

   18. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: January 26, 2014 at 09:55 PM (#4646578)
I've never heard anyone in baseball ever say anything bad about Thome. Always a personal fave, though The Dugout's Thome (as per [10]) definitely elevated him a lot.

I do think it is a little strange to put up a statue of someone while he's working for your rival, but eh.
   19. Huck Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:02 AM (#4646622)
Thome had hit two mammoth home runs off Pettitte in game 3, and when that first inning ball took off, nearly everyone in the park thought that he'd hit another, and that the Indians had the Yankees on their heels. But when O'Neill grabbed it against the wall to retire the side, Hernandez then settled down and wound up with a 4 hit shutout. How often history can ride on an almost unnoticed fraction of an inch.


I remember him hiting 2 ridiculous home runs - 450+ footers - to twice put the Indians ahead against the Red Sox in the deciding ALDS game in 1999. He hit bombs in the first two games of the series as well. But in that final game the Indians' pitchers couldn't hold the leads, and then Pedro came out of the bullpen with a sore back and ... the rest is history.

I always think of that game when people debate clutch and the role that the media plays in building narratives. This guy, in a win or go home playoff game, twice hit the ball to the moon to give his team the lead. But because other guys on the team didn't have their best stuff, and a player on the other team had an even more historic moment, hardly anybody remembers it.
   20. God Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:10 AM (#4646624)
Out of curiosity, how many MLB ballparks don't have any statues?
   21. Davo Dozier Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:32 AM (#4646627)
When Jim Thome played first base for the Phillies on April 8, 2012, it marked the first time he'd played a defensive position since June 13, 2007.

Has any player ever had a longer gap than that?
   22. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 03:17 AM (#4646630)
Both seemed like ordinary, Midwestern guys who rarely caught headlines for anything besides their play on a baseball field.


Killer's from Payette, Idaho, a small town right across the Snake River from Ontario, Oregon. He was a big country hoss, but he's no more midwestern than Starbucks.

Thome, on the other hand, is from Peoria, Illinois, which is coincidentally the same town in which my dad was born.
   23. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:18 AM (#4646633)
When Thome left for a 6/$85 contract in Philadelphia after 2002, the Indians' final offer was 5/$60 and a statue at the ballpark.

He got the statue anyway.
   24. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4646638)
Look at the early photos of Thome, and the late-career pictures and videos, and there is as little doubt as one could have (keeping in mind that Manny Friggin' Alexander used PEDs) that Thome's increased size is the result of a really big guys filling out into his 40s. His arms are not "cut"; he is not a "chiseled" guy. Now look at his legs, butt, and torso - this is a guy who has quick bat speed, and puts a lot of weight behind his swing.

Also, I'll be many people here at BBTF have similar (on a different scale from Thome, obviously) stories about how our bodies have changed as we age. At 19 years old, I was 5' 9", 160 lbs soaking wet. I couldn't gain weight no matter how much I ate. 21 years later, I run marathons, swim extensively, definitely not "chiseled", am in good shape...and weigh 195.

Thome is 6' 4", well over 200 pounds - him adding 30+ pounds over a 20-year professional career would be totally normal. Indeed, it's the players who play forever and don't get bulkier that are the outliers.
   25. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4646642)
When Thome left for a 6/$85 contract in Philadelphia after 2002, the Indians' final offer was 5/$60 and a statue at the ballpark.

You can't buy groceries with a statue.
   26. bads85 Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4646817)
And yet if in the bottom of the first inning of this game he'd hit one warning track fly ball just a quarter of an inch up on his bat, he might well have derailed the Yankees' historic 1998 season. The Yanks were down 2 games to 1,


A large gust of wind kept that ball in the park, illustrating just how far the deities will go to to crush Cleveland.
   27. Nasty Nate Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4646830)
I always think of that game when people debate clutch and the role that the media plays in building narratives. This guy, in a win or go home playoff game, twice hit the ball to the moon to give his team the lead. But because other guys on the team didn't have their best stuff, and a player on the other team had an even more historic moment, hardly anybody remembers it.


He'll have to get in line behind Josh Hamilton, Alfonso Soriano, and Dave Henderson.
   28. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 27, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4646906)
Indeed, it's the players who play forever and don't get bulkier that are the outliers.

I knew LaTroy Hawkins was on PEDs.
   29. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:01 PM (#4646986)
Will the statue have jug ears?
   30. Danko Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4646988)
@Voxter

For some reason, I thought Killebrew was from Iowa, not Idaho. I stand corrected!
   31. God Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4646990)
You can't buy groceries with a statue.


Bubbles from The Wire could probably eat for a year after selling that much scrap metal.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:30 PM (#4647002)
When Jim Thome played first base for the Phillies on April 8, 2012, it marked the first time he'd played a defensive position since June 13, 2007.

Has any player ever had a longer gap than that?


Just random looking...Harold Baines went from Oct 4 1992 until June 10th 1997....Which was 537 games.

If Travis Hafner plays this year he's on a streak right now of 6+ seasons without playing in the field.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:36 PM (#4647062)
Well, Minnie Minoso went from 1964 to 1980 without playing a position. :-)
   34. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:57 PM (#4647070)
And yet if in the bottom of the first inning of this game he'd hit one warning track fly ball just a quarter of an inch up on his bat, he might well have derailed the Yankees' historic 1998 season. The Yanks were down 2 games to 1,

A large gust of wind kept that ball in the park, illustrating just how far the deities will go to to crush Cleveland.


I guess you've never read Terry Pluto's bestselling book, And God Created Midges.
   35. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4647119)
For some reason, I thought Killebrew was from Iowa, not Idaho.


I just keep track of the guys from that part of the world, because I'm from all over Oregon myself. I was in Payette last summer, actually. It's . . . well, there's a reason Killer was living in Arizona when he died, let me just put it that way.
   36. God Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:16 AM (#4647123)
I wonder if Killebrew signed with the southernmost MLB team in order to escape that Idaho weather. If so, he really got screwed when they moved to Minnesota.
   37. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:23 AM (#4647126)
Also, I'll be many people here at BBTF have similar (on a different scale from Thome, obviously) stories about how our bodies have changed as we age. At 19 years old, I was 5' 9", 160 lbs soaking wet. I couldn't gain weight no matter how much I ate. 21 years later, I run marathons, swim extensively, definitely not "chiseled", am in good shape...and weigh 195.


Similar story here including the extensive running, but....I'm still 5'10" and weigh 160. You must do some lifting or power workouts because all I do is run and never gain weight. You've got to have some serious muscle from the swimming I'd guess. I don't think I run that much, maybe 50K week(30 miles), so it's not like marathon training, but I do go out consistently and I eat fairly well. No soft drinks, no fast food but I do consume alcohol and cookies with regularity, along with chocolate milk...love chocolate milk.

But yeah, Thome is a solid guy; big legs, popeyeish arms. He reminds me of the Samoan rugby players.
   38. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:08 AM (#4647134)
escape that Idaho weather


Payette's in a high desert, actually, and the weather ain't that bad. It can get kinda chilly in the winter, but the summers in that part of the world are sunny and hot but very dry, and it gets cool enough to sleep at night.

But I'm in Minnesota now. Whether he was looking to move to the tropics or not, he certainly got screwed on the transfer.
   39. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: January 28, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4647142)
I wonder if Killebrew signed with the southernmost MLB team in order to escape that Idaho weather. If so, he really got screwed when they moved to Minnesota.

Killebrew signed with the Nats after getting a tip from Herman Welker, who was a U.S. Senator from Idaho.
   40. The Pequod Posted: January 28, 2014 at 10:19 AM (#4647184)
I'm an Indians fan and have a soft spot for Jim Thome, but it's offensive that they're building a statue for a guy who:

1. Left under the circumstances described in #8, with "they'll have to rip the jersey off my back" as the icing on the cake.
2. Isn't in the Hall of Fame (yet, but still).
3. Didn't lead the team to a championship.

It's pandering to a bitterly disappointed, kicked-dog of a fanbase. They'll get a bump in public perception and attendance from it, but if they don't win it won't matter and in the long run it'll actually be a reminder of how far the franchise has fallen (especially for the casual fan).
   41. bads85 Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4647370)
I guess you've never read Terry Pluto's bestselling book, And God Created Midges.


Terry Pluto quit being a quality sportswriter decades ago -- he almost certainly thinks Jaret Wright invented midges. Besides, the midges were just sent by the Lake Nymph to set up a greater disappointment against Boston.
   42. bads85 Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4647389)
It's pandering to a bitterly disappointed, kicked-dog of a fanbase. They'll get a bump in public perception and attendance from it, but if they don't win it won't matter and in the long run it'll actually be a reminder of how far the franchise has fallen (especially for the casual fan).


Right -- it is like putting a statue of Bernie Kosar in front of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

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