Countdown Thome’s Greatest Moments: #11-15
Vince Guerrieri | On 02, Aug 2014
He’s regarded as one of the nicest people in baseball. But as beloved as Jim Thome might be off the field, he’s still feared on it. From his arrival in Cleveland as a raw third baseman with a powerful bat to his sojourns in Philadelphia, L.A., the South Side of Chicago and Minnesota, Thome’s had more than his share of his most memorable moments. We’ve selected the 25 biggest moments in Thome’s career.
#15 April 9, 2003 – After the 2002 season, Jim Thome signed a six-year, $85 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal reunited him with Charlie Manuel, his former hitting instructor and manager who became the Phils’ manager. It also gave him a chance to play for a contender. The Indians were in fire sale mode, and it would take a while for them to start contending again. The Phillies, on the other hand, were looking to contend immediately in the National League East, and they thought Thome would be the ticket to do it. On April 9, they were hosting the defending East champion Braves, and thanks to Jim Thome hitting two home runs off Joey Dawley, put a 16-2 hurting on the Braves. Thome, who would go on to lead the National League with 47 home runs that year, played first base for three years in Philadelphia, before being dealt to the White Sox to clear the way for their own slugging first baseman, Ryan Howard. But that year, he led the Phils to third place in the East with a record of 86-76, their best record since they won the pennant in 1993. The Phillies haven’t finished below .500 since, and have won the last five Eastern Division titles since then, including clinching the division already this year.
#14 June 28, 2010 – Even though the Twins lost to the Tigers 7-5, it was a banner night for Jim Thome. He tripled and homered, scoring twice and knocking in a run. That day, Thome scored his 1,500th run, making him one of seven players with 500 home runs, 1,500 walks, 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBI. The others are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle and Mel Ott.
#13 Sept. 18, 2006 – With the bases empty and one out, Thome hits a home run off the Detroit Tigers’ Fernando Rodney to get the White Sox on the board. The game turned out to be an 8-2 Tigers shellacking, but the home run was Thome’s 40th, making him the second player in major league history to hit 40 home runs with three different teams (The first was Alex Rodriguez, having done so with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees). Thome was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year that year.
#12 July 22, 1994 – The balls were flying out of Jacobs Field during a game against the White Sox. With one on and one out, Thome tagged an offering from Jason Bere for a home run to the right field power alley. The next batter up, Albert Belle, also homered, to the left field power alley. Paul Sorrento also hit a home run in the first inning to stake the Tribe to a 4-0 lead early on. But the White Sox came back to score five in the top of the second, thanks in part to a three-run home run by Tim Raines off Jack Morris. Kenny Lofton homered in the bottom of the second off Scott Sanderson, who’d replaced Bere in the first, and the Indians retook the lead, 7-5. Two batters later, Thome hit his second home run of the game, off Sanderson. Thome would tag Sanderson again in the fifth inning, for three home runs in the game, a feat Thome would duplicate again against the Cardinals on July 6, 2001.
#11 Oct. 6, 1997 – Thome came up as a third baseman, but when the Indians acquired Matt Williams, he made the move to first base. He was known more for his bat than his glove, but he came up big when it counted most, in the fifth and deciding game of the 1997 American League Division Series against the Yankees, with the Indians holding on to a 4-3 lead with no outs. Paul Assenmacher came on to relieve Mike Jackson, who had just walked Derek Jeter. Assenmacher was facing Paul O’Neill, who hit a sharp grounder in the hole between first and second. Thome made a diving stop and threw to Vizquel to force Jeter. The next batter Bernie Williams, grounded to Vizquel to start an inning-ending double play, and the Tribe went on to win the game 4-3, and the series.