HOF 2018: Thome Impact Player, But Lack of World Championship Haunts Him
(Editor's note: Jim Thome will join Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammel will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 29. InsideTheSeams.com will take a look at the career of each of them over the next six days. Today: Jim Thome).
For all the accomplishments of Jim Thome on the baseball field, what those who have known him over the years will remember the most has nothing to do with the National Pastime.
“He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet, to everything except the baseball,” explained former big-league player Mike Cuddyer, who himself embodied everything he said about Thome.
And as good of a person Thome is, however, he did distinguish himself on the baseball field, too.
Next weekend, Thome will be one of six former players inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, one of only 54 players to have been inducted in his first year of eligibility.
He will be inducted on Sunday along with Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero, who also received the 75 percent of the votes required from veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, along with Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who came up short over the years in the BBWAA voting, but were elected last December by the Modern Day Committee.
Humble as he may be, even Thome admits being elected to the Hall of Fame is pretty special.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play in the major leagues,” he said, “but to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. …”
He doesn’t need to finish the sentence.
“When you get elected into the Hall of Fame and see the joy and excitement of what it brings to your family, friends and your coaches, all those great managers I played for,” said Thome. “I don’t want to say my life has changed too much. I try to keep that pretty simple, but it’s been very special to share this with the ones you really care about, and the people that are genuinely good fans that are happy for you. That means so much.”
Thome’s big-league career spanned 24 years, the bulk of 13 of which were spent with the Cleveland Indians. He also played with the White Sox, Twins, Orioles, Phillies and Dodgers.
Now he’s part of a team of baseball greats, based in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“How do you ever envision that?” said Thome. “As you are playing you don’t play to make it to the Hall of Fame. You play to be a guy who helps you club win. Then, the career is over, and you look back and have somebody said you are one of 54 (players elected to the Hall of Fame in the first year of legibility). There’s something special about that. You hold your chest out a little more.”
But there remains an empty feeling, Thome admits.
He ever earned a world championship ring. He never got to celebrate with champagne after the final game of the entire baseball season. Twice, he was on an Indians team that advanced to the World Series, but in 1995 the Indians lost to the Braves in six games, and two years later, they were seven-game victims of the Marlins.
“It’s very heartbreaking, I have to tell you,” he said. “A day like today is special, but I can only envision what it would have been like to win a World Series.”
Winning a World Series, after all, is a team thing, and Thome was a team player, who in the process put together the type of numbers that made him stick out as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Thome, along with Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds are the only players in history to have 1,7000 walks and 1,699 RBI. He holds the MLB record with 13 walk-off home runs.
Thome, Bonds, Ruth, Williams, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle are the only players in history to have hit 500 home runs, and compiled a .550 slugging percentage and .500 on-base percentage.
He ranks 23d all-time in extra-base hits, 26th in RBI, 41st in total bases, 51st in runs scored, 18th in OPS, 22nd in slugging percentage, and 44th in offensive WAR.
All the numbers add up to quite an accomplishment, but they are personal, and that isn’t Thome.
“This is special,” he said, “but I can only envision what it would have been like to win a World Series.”
The Thome Files