Jim Thome with the Orioles
|First baseman / Designated hitter / Third baseman|
August 27, 1970 |
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|September 4, 1991 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 3, 2012 for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||1,699|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Howard "Jim" Thome (//; born August 27, 1970) is an American former baseball player. He was primarily a first baseman but also spent significant time as a third baseman and late in his career was most often used as a designated hitter. He has played for the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and Baltimore Orioles. In 1996, Thome won the Silver Slugger Award and in 2006, he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. He has also received the Roberto Clemente Award (2002), Babe Ruth Home Run Award (2003), and Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (2004). In 2011, he became the eighth MLB player to hit 600 home runs (HR). He has hit the seventh-most home runs of all-time with 612 and is 24th all-time for runs batted in (RBIs) with 1,699.
Thome was part of the Cleveland Indians core group of players who led the franchise to two World Series appearances in three years during the mid-1990s. After spending over a decade with Cleveland, Thome signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Traded to the White Sox before the 2006 season, he played in Chicago for three more seasons and joined the 500 home run club. After a brief stint with the Dodgers, Thome played with the Minnesota Twins for two seasons before returning to Cleveland and then Philadelphia. He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2012; at the end of the season he filed for free agency.
Throughout his career, Thome's strength has been power hitting. In six different seasons, he has hit more than 40 home runs; his career on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .956 is 19th all-time. Later in his career, repeated back injuries kept him from playing the field regularly. He primarily was a designated hitter. Thome is known for his batting stance, in which he holds the bat out with his right hand and points it at right field before the pitcher is ready to throw, which he first saw in The Natural; and his constant positive attitude.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional career
- 3 Post-playing career
- 4 Player profile
- 5 Personal life
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Thome was born in Peoria, Illinois on August 27, 1970, the youngest of five children. All the members of his family played sports. His grandmother was hired at a local Caterpillar plant solely to play for the company's softball team. His father built bulldozers for Caterpillar and played slow-pitch softball. Thome's two older brothers, Chuck III and Randy, played baseball at Limestone High School. Growing up, his favorite player was Dave Kingman, and one day, while at Wrigley Field trying to get Kingman's autograph, he sneaked into the Cubs' clubhouse to try to find Kingman. Though to his dismay he ultimately did not get Kingman's autograph, he did get the autographs of several others, and, because of his childhood difficulties in getting autographs, now makes a point to sign autographs for fans.
Like his older brothers, Thome attended Limestone where he achieved all-state honors in both baseball, playing shortstop, and basketball. Although he had hoped to be noticed by scouts, his relatively small stature (6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) 175 pounds (79 kg)) meant that he attracted only passing interest. Thome graduated in 1988 and, after not being drafted, enrolled at Illinois Central College where he continued his baseball and basketball careers. After one season, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 Major League Baseball Draft.
Cleveland Indians (1991–2002)
Thome was originally assigned to the Gulf Coast League Indians, where he played exclusively in 1989 posting a batting average (BA) of .237 with no home runs and 22 RBIs. After his rookie season, he met "hitting guru" Charlie Manuel, who later was his manager and mentor. Unlike most Indians staff, Manuel saw potential in Thome and worked hard with him, particularly on how he used his hips in his swing. Thome later said, "He saw something in me I didn't." During this work, Manuel suggested to Thome that he point his bat out to center field before the pitch to relax himself like Roy Hobbs did in The Natural when batting.
The work paid off; in 1990, Thome hit .340 and totaled 16 home runs and 50 RBIs playing at both the Rookie and Class A levels. After splitting the 1991 season between Double-A and Triple-A where, in combination, he hit .319 with 7 home runs and 73 RBIs, Thome made his MLB debut on September 4, 1991, as a third baseman against the Minnesota Twins. In the game he had two hits in four at-bats (2-for-4) and recorded his first hit. He hit his first career home run on October 4. Injuries shortened Thome's 1992 campaign during which he played for both the Indians and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Indians' Triple-A affiliate at the time. He combined to play 52 games with 4 home runs and 26 RBIs while hitting .236. Thome played mostly for the Charlotte Knights, the Indians' new Triple-A affiliate, in 1993. He led the International League with a .332 batting average and 102 RBIs, complemented by 25 home runs. This performance earned him a late season call up in which he hit .266 with 7 home runs and 22 RBIs in 47 games.
In the 1994 offseason, Cleveland made several offseason acquisitions in an attempt to compete after six consecutive seasons with a losing record. Sandy Alomar Jr., Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and Mark Clark were brought in to work with Thome and 22-year-old Manny Ramirez. For the first time in his career, Thome spent the entire year with Cleveland, playing in 98 games while hitting .268 with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs. This group led the Indians to within one game of the Chicago White Sox's American League Central lead and a wild card spot prior to the 1994 players' strike, which forced cancellation of the season's remaining games. During the strike-shortened season, Thome had his first career multi-home run game, hitting two solo home runs on June 22, 1994 against Detroit Tigers' pitcher John Doherty. Despite Thome's statistical improvement in 1994, it was not until 1995 that the Indians' success led to a playoff berth. Thome led the team by hitting .314 with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs and the Indians finished with a 100–44 record to win the American League Central, but lost the World Series to the Atlanta Braves in six games. Thome hit .211 in the World Series with one home run and two runs batted in. Coming into the 1996 season, sportswriters predicted that Thome would move up in the batting order and bat in the sixth position. (He had previously hit anywhere from the fifth to the eighth positions during his first two seasons.) During the 1996 season, Thome hit 38 home runs, once hitting a 511-foot (156 m) homer at Cleveland's Jacobs Field, the longest home run ever at a Cleveland ballpark.
Originally a third baseman, the Indians moved Thome to first base in 1997 after they acquired third baseman Matt Williams. In 1997, Thome helped the Indians hit a club record 220 home runs, contributing 40 of them. Thome also totaled an American League high 120 walks to go along with 102 RBIs. Cleveland returned to the World Series that year powered by their record offense, but they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games. Thome hit .286 with two home runs and four RBIs.
The next three seasons would not be as successful for either Thome or the Indians as the previous three had been. In July 1998, Thome hit his 24th home run of the season while helping the Indians snap the Yankees' 10-game winning streak. An article in Sports Illustrated published in July 1998 commented that despite Thome's early career success (two all-star games and two of the previous three World Series), he was only "faintly famous" nationally and was not particularly well-known outside of Cleveland and hometown Peoria. His former teammate Jeromy Burnitz noted that:
"You can't really say he's underrated, because everybody considers him one of the top hitters in the American League, but he's surrounded by so many good players, it's hard to stand out on that team."
In August, Thome broke a bone in his right hand and spent several weeks on the disabled list missing 35 games. He finished the year with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs while posting a .293 batting average. In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, he hit two home runs off of Andy Pettitte en route to a 6–1 Cleveland victory. Cleveland subsequently lost the series to the Yankees.
Headed into 1999, there were high hopes for the Indians; writers expected Thome to bat in the cleanup spot. The next year in May, Thome hit a grand slam against Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez, which helped Cleveland to a 7–1 victory. In total, his batting averaged decreased, falling to .277, but he improved both his home run and RBI totals by posting 33 and 108 respectively. In game one of the ALDS, Thome hit a game-tying two-run home run off of Derek Lowe (Cleveland would go on to defeat the Boston Red Sox by a score of 3–2). However, after going up two games to none, Cleveland lost the series.
Thome's statistics declined once again in 2000. He hit .269 with 37 home runs and 106 RBIs in 2000. On June 21, Thome hit his 20th home run of the year against the Chicago White Sox. This marked the seventh consecutive season in which Thome hit 20 or more home runs. On September 29, while in the midst of a tight race for the wild card spot, Thome led the Indians to an 8–4 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays by hitting a two-run home run. After the game, Thome was quoted as saying, "This team has battled all year, so this was nothing new. Here we are, and we're here tomorrow to play another day." Despite finishing with a record of 90–72, the Indians missed the playoffs. For the 2001 season, he finished second in the American League with 49 home runs. In addition, Thome had 124 RBIs and 111 walks. However, Thome lead the league with 185 strikeouts. He and Juan Gonzalez, who totaled 140 RBI, powered the Indians to another division title. Despite these numbers, the Indians could once again only reach the American League Division Series, where they lost in five games to the Seattle Mariners.
Thome had his best season in 2002, leading the American League in walks (122), slugging percentage (.677) and OPS (1.122), while batting .304 (16th in AL) with a .445 on-base percentage (2nd in AL). He also hit a career high 52 home runs (2nd in AL) and collected 118 runs batted in (7th in AL). The 52 home runs set a new Cleveland Indians' single season record and made Thome just the 21st major leaguer (at the time) to join the 50 home run club.
Thome hit a club record 334 home runs in his first stint with the Indians. After the 2002 season, Thome, who was a free agent, turned down the Indians (despite their offer to build a statue of him) to instead sign a six-year, $85 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, whom Thome thought were closer to winning a championship. With the Phillies, Thome's salary rose from $8 million per year to $11 million per year. A Plain Dealer fan poll in 2003 named Thome the most popular athlete in Cleveland sports history.
Philadelphia Phillies (2003–2005)
Thome hit 47 home runs in his first season with the Phillies, finishing one behind Mike Schmidt's single-season team record of 48 in 1980 and tied with Alex Rodriguez for the MLB lead in 2003. On June 14, 2004, Thome hit his 400th career home run off of José Acevedo at Citizens Bank Park, surpassing Al Kaline for 37th on the all-time home run list. He ended the 2004 season with 42 home runs, giving him 423 for his career, which placed him 35th on the career list. In 2004, Thome won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, which is given to players who best exemplify Gehrig's character and integrity both on and off the field.
Thome missed a significant portion of the first half of the 2005 season due to injury; he totaled only a .207 batting average with 7 home runs and 30 RBIs going into the All-Star break. His performance was so sporadic that Phillies fans booed him and cheered for his replacement Ryan Howard instead. He had season-ending surgery on his right elbow in August. Howard won the NL Rookie of the Year award. Though the emergence of Howard made Thome less important to the squad, another primary factor in his trade to the Chicago White Sox was his family situation. His mother had died a year earlier, and with news that his father's condition was getting worse, the Phillies and White Sox completed the deal on November 25, 2005. Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox along with cash considerations for Aaron Rowand and minor league pitching prospects Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood.
Chicago White Sox (2006–2009)
Thome became the White Sox's regular designated hitter in April 2006 and flourished in his first season in Chicago. He set the team record for most home runs in the month of April (10), beating Frank Thomas's previous record by one. He also set a major league record by scoring in each of Chicago's first 17 games. For the season, Thome hit 42 home runs, drove in 109 runs, and hit .288, though he struck out in 30% of his plate appearances, the highest percentage in the American League.
On May 1, 2006, Thome returned to Cleveland to play his first game as a visitor at Jacobs Field, receiving an unenthusiastic reception. The 500 home run club gained a new member on September 16 when Thome hit hit his 500th homer run off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Dustin Moseley, a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning with one man on base, which gave the White Sox a 9–7 victory. Thome became the 23rd major leaguer to reach the milestone and the third in the 2007 season (the others were Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez) as well as the first ever to do it with a walk-off homer. Several family members were on hand to witness the accomplishment, which occurred on Thome bobblehead giveaway day; he rounded the bases pointing upward in homage to his late mother.
On June 4, 2008, Thome hit a 464-foot (141 m) home run—which at the time was the ninth longest home run in U.S. Cellular Field history—against Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar in a 6–4 White Sox victory. Two months later on August 14, Thome hit the first of four consecutive home runs in the sixth inning against the Rays. He hit a solo home run in the AL Central Tiebreaker game, which proved to be the difference as the White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 1–0. Thome's hitting remained strong in 2009, and on June 1, he hit his 550th career home run in a win against the Oakland Athletics. On July 17, 2009, he hit a grand slam and a three-run home run for a single-game career-high seven RBIs. Later in the summer on August 15, he passed Reggie Jackson and moved up to 11th on the all time home run list with 564 home runs.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2009)
On August 31, 2009, the White Sox traded Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers with cash for minor league infielder Justin Fuller. Thome waived his no-trade clause in an attempt to win a World Series, but Thome's only appearances with the Dodgers were as a pinch hitter. An additional reason for Thome to come to Los Angeles was the opportunity to reunite with former Cleveland teammates Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake. He hit .235 with no home runs and three RBIs while with the Dodgers (4-for-17). After the season, Thome filed for free agency, eventually signing with the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota Twins (2010–2011)
When the Twins opened Target Field on April 12, 2010, Thome, for the third time in his career, was a part of an organization that celebrated the grand opening of a new home stadium. The other two openings he was a part of were the 1994 Cleveland Indians when they opened Jacobs Field and the 2004 Philadelphia Phillies when they opened Citizens Bank Park. He hit his first home run with the Twins on April 8, during the Twins' season-opening road trip. On July 3, Thome hit his 573rd and 574th home runs. In doing so he passed fellow Twin Harmon Killebrew for tenth on the all-time home run leaders list. The game stopped and the Twins played a pre-recorded message from Killebrew congratulating Thome on the accomplishment. During the congratulation, he said, "I'm glad he (Thome) was able to hit it in a Twins uniform. I only wish I could have been there to see it." Thome hit the first walk-off hit in Target Field on August 17, a 445-foot two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning against the White Sox. It was the 12th walk-off home run of his career, tying him for first all time (with Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson, and Babe Ruth). On September 4, Thome again hit two home runs in a single game to tie and then pass Mark McGwire for the ninth spot on the career home run list. Thome passed Robinson on September 11, when he hit his 587th career home run in the top of the 12th inning in Cleveland. Toward the end of the season, Thome commented that playing with the Twins made him feel rejuvenated. He finished the 2010 season with a .283 average, 25 home runs and 59 RBIs. Thome posted his best slugging percentage since 2002.
In January 2011, Thome accepted a one-year, $3 million contract with incentives to continue playing for the Twins. On July 17, Thome hit the longest home run ever at Target Field, a 490-foot (150 m) home run into the upper deck in right-center field. He hit his 599th and 600th career home runs (in two straight at bats) at Comerica Park on August 15, making him only the eighth player to achieve that home run total.
Second stint with Cleveland (2011)
In August, Thome was traded to Cleveland after waiving his no-trade clause. On September 18, the clubs announced that Minnesota had received $20,000 for Thome. On September 23, Cleveland held a ceremony honoring Thome, and revealed plans for a statue depicting him in Heritage Park. In the game, Thome hit a home run that landed near the proposed location for his statue. Through 2011, Thome was second among all active major leaguers in home runs (604; behind Alex Rodriguez) and RBIs (1,674; Rodriguez), and fifth in career slugging percentage (.556; behind Albert Pujols, Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and Howard). Thome is the Indians' all-time leader in home runs (337), walks (1,008), and strikeouts (1,400).
Second stint with Philadelphia (2012)
After the season, Thome agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal that returned him to Philadelphia. He called coming back to Philadelphia a "no-brainer" in his news conference. He also mentioned that, due to Ryan Howard's Achilles tendon injury, he would "spend the offseason preparing himself to play first base once or twice a week", despite not having played the field since 2007.
Thome started his first game at first base since 2007 on April 8, 2012, during which he started a 3–6–3 double play. Thome experienced stiffness in his lower back in a game against the Chicago Cubs on April 28. In May, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back. Thome was only batting .100 at the time. Thome returned to the club in early June, and prepared for interleague play against the Baltimore Orioles as the DH. Thome finished the nine-game interleague road trip with four home runs and 14 RBIs.
On June 17, Thome became the fourth major league player to hit 100 home runs with three different teams, joining Reggie Jackson, Darrell Evans and Rodriguez. Six days later, Thome hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run in the ninth inning off of Jake McGee to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7–6. This was Thome's 609th home run, tying Sammy Sosa for seventh all-time in home runs while also setting the new record for most walk-off home runs (13) in the modern era. Thome's last game as a Phillie was an afternoon loss to the Miami Marlins on June 30. After the game (which coincided with Howard's return from the disabled list), the team announced that Thome had been traded to Baltimore to serve as their designated hitter.
Baltimore Orioles (2012)
"I think you look at him and say: This is a guy who loves the game more than anyone. He's the first guy to the park, the first guy to the weight room, the first guy hitting."
On July 20, Thome hit his first home run with the Orioles, his 610th of all time moving him pass Sosa for seventh place all-time, against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. On August 6, Thome was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disk; he remained on the DL until September 21. In his first game back, he drove in the game-winning RBI in extra innings against the Boston Red Sox. After beating the Indians in a game where he hit his 611th career home run, Thome said, "There's a lot memories. I've had great memories on that side and then coming in here as an opponent against them. Any time you come home, they say, it's very special. It's even more special to get the W's. That's, I think, the main thing. The bottom line is I played here a long time." Orioles teammates have remarked at Thome's commitment to talking about the game while in the dugout. Thome remarked, "I talk the game. When I set in the dugout during games I talk baseball to these guys. They'll ask, 'Hey, what's this pitcher like?' or 'What about the game?' 'What about all those Indians teams you were on?' I did it to Eddie Murray when he was in his 40s." The Orioles did make the playoffs, but lost in five games to the Yankees during the ALDS. Thome hit .133 in the playoffs with no home runs or RBIs.
On July 2, 2013, Thome joined the White Sox organization as special assistant to the general manager.
Even as he got older, Thome was still considered an above average hitter. Injuries, however, had taken a toll on Thome and confined him almost exclusively to being a designated hitter. Throughout his career, Thome has spent 10 separate stints on the disabled list, mostly for his back. Despite his injuries throughout his later years, Thome still, according to Fangraphs, has totaled 71.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Though Thome has played through the steroid era, he has never been accused of using them and denies that he ever has. He is considered a candidate to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, largely due to his high home run total.
Thome is regarded as one of the best power hitters of all time, as indicated by the Isolated Power (ISO) sabermetric. Throughout his career, Thome has been considered one of the best hitters in the game. In 2011, he was ranked the sixth-best designated hitter in MLB history by FOX Sports. A pull hitter, Thome possesses a .300 batting average on fastballs, while he totaled only a .161 batting average against sliders. Opposing teams have long employed a shift against him in which three infielders play on the right side of the field and the outfielders shift to Thome's pull side. In 2011, Lindy's Sports described Thome as a "extremely patient veteran slugger who launches cripple fastballs and breaking-ball mistakes to all fields", though they did note that he strikes out frequently, has poor speed, and should be strictly a designated hitter. During his career, Thome had strong power numbers; in 15 of his 22 seasons, he had a slugging percentage of over .500. He is an example of a "three-true-outcome" player; 47.6% of his career plate appearances have resulted in either home runs, strikeouts, or walks, the highest of all time by nearly seven percentage points. Thome is a self-described slow runner, but he comments that he always runs hard. He has only stolen 20 bases since 1994.
Thome began his career playing third base and did so until the 1997 season, when he converted to first base to make room at third after the Indians traded for Williams. By the end of Thome's career, his back prevented him from playing the field effectively – he played first base four times with the Phillies in 2012 which marked the first time he played the field since 2007 with the White Sox. By the end of his career, writers described him as being a "huge liability in the field".
Thome is known throughout the baseball world for wearing high socks and for his unique batting stance. In 1997, the Indians wore high socks for Thome's birthday in August, but ended up wearing them for the remainder of the season out of superstition and eventually reached the World Series. When Thome returned to the Indians in 2011, the club again sported the high socks as a tribute to Thome. Thome's batting stance features him pointing his bat to center field prior to the pitch. Thome adopted this stance from Charlie Manuel, who was the Indians hitting coach, and since then Ryan Howard has also adopted it. Thome credits his calm demeanor to his role model during his early playing years, Eddie Murray. Thome once said,
"Eddie taught me to play the game exactly the same when you fail and when you succeed. Hit a home run, hey, enjoy the moment, but then let it go. If you strike out with the bases loaded, same thing, let it go. I don't smash helmets when I strike out, because it's not the helmet's fault, it's my fault."
Thome's friendly personality has been the subject of much attention. In a 2007 poll of 464 Major League Baseball players, Thome tied with Mike Sweeney for second-friendliest player behind Sean Casey. After Thome hit his 600th home run, Twins closer Joe Nathan said, "He is the world's nicest man." Teammate Michael Cuddyer added, "He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet ... to everything except the baseball, he still hits that really hard." Thome's kindness comes up in conversations with many Major League Baseball players. When he signed with the Phillies in the offseason before the 2012 season, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. cited Thome's constant positive attitude as a primary reason for his signing. As an exercise in humility, Thome annually visits his high school prior to spring training. Also, he always makes time to sign autographs for fans, something he appreciated during his childhood.
Thome and his wife, Andrea, have two children, Lila Grace and Landon. He has also established funds to put his 10 nieces and nephews through college. During the offseason he lives in Peoria. ESPN's SportsCenter reported that shortly after his nephew, Brandon, was paralyzed in an accident, he asked Thome to hit a home run for him; Thome obliged, hitting two in the subsequent game. Thome is also a philanthropist, and always helped the communities surrounding the teams for which he played. As a testament to his philanthropy, in 2001, he won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, and in 2005, he won the Lou Gehrig award, both for community involvement. In 2013, after the November 17, 2013 tornado outbreak struck Washington, Illinois, just 15 miles from Thome's hometown, he and his wife pledged to donate $100,000 to relief efforts.
- List of Major League Baseball players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1,000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1,000 runs
- 50 home run club
- 500 home run club
- List of lifetime home run leaders through history
- List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- List of Major League Baseball Home Run Records
- List of Major League Baseball home run champions
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jim Thome.|
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
|Awards and achievements|
|American League Player of the Month
|National League Player of the Month
|Indians' Minor League Player of the Year
(the Lou Boudreau Award)