We rely on baseball, Bart Giamatti said, to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive.
Sunday was one of those moments – while also a harsh dose of reality that time marches on.
Jim Thome was among the six inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, probably because he’s a great guy in addition to being a prodigious power hitter. He went in as an Indian, something that hasn’t happened in 20 years (twice that long if you’re talking about a candidate elected by the writers).
While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 25 days
On July 29, Jim Thome will take his place among the other baseball immortals in Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame. Three weeks later, Thome will return home to Cleveland for part of the club’s Hall of Fame celebration in his honor on August 18. On that date, fans in attendance will receive a Thome giveaway jersey in a gesture that would seem to be linked to the likely retirement of his number 25 that evening.
While the Cleveland Indians have not formally announced that Thome’s jersey retirement will be part of the weekend ceremony honoring the club’s first Hall of Famer since Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven gained entrance in 2011, it seems a forgone conclusion that the Tribe will take the opportunity with the slugger in town to place his number among other Indians legends honored in such a way.
A path to baseball immortality began on June 5, 1989, when the Cleveland Indians selected an 18-year-old Peoria, Illinois, native in the 13th round of the amateur draft out of Illinois Central College.
Less than two weeks later, the ink was dry on Jim Thome’s first professional contract and he began his long march to Cooperstown, New York, a voyage that included 24 years on the field and five years of waiting for one humbling phone call.
It took little time for Thome to burst onto the Major League scene. After a homerless first season in the minors, Thome hit .340 with 16 homers and 50 RBI in 67 games in low-level action in 1990. The next year, he hit .337 at Double-A Canton-Akron in 84 games and .285 in 41 more games at Triple-A Colorado Springs. While his budding power was lacking that season, he still got the call to The Show, appearing in 27 games for the Tribe while hitting .255. The scrawny third baseman notched his first homer in New York against former Indians pitcher Steve Farr with a majestic blast to the upper deck at famed Yankee Stadium.
On Wednesday, Jim Thome is expected to become one of the newest members of Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Museum. In his first year of eligibility, it is all but certain that Thome will join a select group of former Indians to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Only 12 other players to enter the hallowed halls have played the majority of their careers with the Tribe. The Thomenator would become the 13th. That is hardly unlucky.
OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one: An Indians slugger settles in at first base after changing positions, becomes a mainstay of some quality Tribe teams, and ends up signing a fat contract in Philadelphia.
Thome was drafted in the 13th round by the Indians in 1989, breaking in with the team as a third baseman as a September callup two years later. That team lost 105 games – the most losses in Indians history – but good times were just around the corner.
Next year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductions could have a Cleveland flavor to them.
What’s even more likely is that they’ll have more than a touch of controversy.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced on Monday the list of candidates on this year’s ballot for potential induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Several players with strong ties to the Cleveland Indians will make their first appearances.
A total of 33 candidates are up for the vote this offseason, including 19 players for the first time. The new class of candidates include several former Indians – Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel – as well as former Atlanta Braves stars Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, and lethal left-hander Johan Santana.
Despite a legitimate scare in the ninth, the Cleveland Indians hold on to defeat the Atlanta Braves, 5-4, in Game 5 of the World Series to delay their season’s end by one more game. It was the final game to be played at Jacobs Field that season with a total of 43,595 in attendance for the two hour and 33 minute contest.
Tuesday night, the National Basketball Association opens its 2017-18 regular season schedule as the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Boston Celtics in a game that has much more meaning than the usual opening night game.
The Cavs and Celtics have become rivals over the course of the last few years, with Cleveland knocking Boston out of the playoffs twice in the last three seasons. The two clubs went toe-to-toe in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, with the Cavs winning that series, four games to one, to send Cleveland to its third straight NBA Finals. As many remember, that trip did not end nearly as well as the previous season, when the Cavs gave the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964 with the first title in franchise history, leaving the Indians as holders of the longest active championship drought in the city.
While the Cavs will begin their defense of three straight Eastern Conference titles, the game’s real emphasis will be on the return of star guard Kyrie Irving to Quicken Loans Arena, where the former first overall pick in 2011 spent the first six years of his NBA career in Cavs’ wine and gold before demanding a trade in the offseason. The Cavs front office honored that request, sending its second-best player to a rival club, but may have, possibly, become a more well-rounded club in the process. That remains to be seen, as the results will play out over the course of the largely meaningless 82-game NBA schedule over the next six months.