Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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Growing up during the time that I did, I had the honor of watching the Cleveland Indians during their hay day. From the early 1990’s to the mid 2000’s, the Cleveland Indians were considered to be one of the best organizations in all of baseball. From the countless playoff appearances to the two World Series appearances and even hosting the likes of Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Charles Nagy, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez, life was pretty good in Cleveland. But of all of those players, there was one in particular that I myself looked up to during my childhood and that man was Jim Thome.
Before this Saturday night’s game with the Texas Rangers, the Indians will be honoring Thome’s time and efforts in Cleveland with a life-size statue that will be placed behind the center-field seats. I understand that he isn’t Bob Feller and some people felt that the statue should’ve went to Vizquel, but the fact of the matter is that Thome may be the greatest power hitter in Cleveland Indians history and not only is this statue honoring Thome the ballplayer, but it is honoring Jim Thome the humanitarian.
From the first time I saw Jim Thome suit up and play for the Tribe, I couldn’t help but become a fan. This tall lumbering lefty from Peoria, Illinois could hit the ball a country mile and most importantly, he did it with a smile. Over his 22 seasons in the majors (13 with the Indians), Thome totaled a career batting average of .276 with 2,328 hits, 1,699 runs batted in and is 7th all-time with 612 home runs. Besides the home run totals, the other numbers don't really scream "statue worthy", but for a player like Thome, numbers were the last thing on his mind.
In a game of numbers, strategies and dollar signs, we lose sight of what a good attitude can do for a ball club. With one of the best attitudes and personalities the game has ever seen, Jim Thome played the game of baseball because he loved it. He always took the time to talk to and sign autographs for his fans, was as outgoing as you could get in any interview he ever did and was a part of countless charities in Cleveland and other stops throughout his career.
I once read a debate that even though Thome was a clubhouse's dream, he still left the Tribe back in 2002 for a gigantic payday with the Philadelphia Phillies and do we really want our children looking up to someone that isn't loyal to their long time organization? First of all, baseball is a business and I wish someone would've told me that when I was younger. Sure, I was upset when Thome left for Philly because I was 12 years-old and thought #25 would be in Cleveland forever. After maturing in my years, I realized that Thome couldn't have passed up on that deal with the Phillies and even though he played with five other big league organizations, Thome will always be ours. His blue-collar background and positive attitude was the perfect fit for Cleveland and the city embraced him.
Guys like Thome are becoming fewer and fewer in the game of baseball. Personally, I think that is why Thome is as well respected throughout the game as he is. Yeah, he hit a boat-load of home runs in his career, but what made Jim Thome one of the game's greatest is the little things that he did but didn't have to do. No matter where he goes or who he works for, Jim Thome will always be someone I look up to and this statue is just a token of the Tribe's appreciation for everything a kid from Peoria did for the city of Cleveland.