The 2014 season will mark 20 years of baseball at Progressive (ie Jacobs) Field. It’s been a relatively short history (although with the stadium building boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Progressive Field is the 13th oldest facility in the majors). Did the Tribe Win Last Night has compiled a list of the 20 most memorable moments in the field’s history. We’ll count them down for 20 consecutive Saturdays.
15. Jim Thome’s victory lap – Sept. 23, 2011
There were a lot of talented players in Cleveland in the 1990s, but nobody has ever become the fan favorite Jim Thome has. The Peoria, Ill., native resonated with Indians fans like few players ever have. The fact that he could crush home runs doubtlessly helped.
So there were hurt feelings and broken hearts when Thome, like so many other Indians players from those 1990s teams, took the money and ran – to Philadelphia. The Indians were curling into rebuilding mode, and Thome believed the Phillies were closer to contending, and it offered him a chance to reunite with former Indians manager Charlie Manuel.
From there, Thome came back to the American League Central, spending the better part of two seasons each with the White Sox (they traded him to the Dodgers at the 2009 trading deadline) and the Twins. In 2011, Thome cleared waivers and made his triumphant return to Cleveland, as the Indians were still battling for a playoff spot. They faded down the stretch to the Tigers, but on Sept. 23, the Indians had Jim Thome night at Progressive Field, before the game against the Twins. Prior to the game, the Indians announced that they would build a statue of Thome in center field.
Thome, who had just hit his 599th and 600th home runs a couple weeks earlier for the Twins in a Monday night game against the Tigers, added another blast. Overall, he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs as the Indians got a dramatic win when Carlos Santana, called on to pinch-hit for Lou Marson in the ninth, hit a walk-off home run on the only pitch he saw off Matt Capps.