Indians to unveil new Jim Thome statue
Tribe to honor one of baseball's all-time greats this August
CLEVELAND—Sometimes things come natural.
For Indians legend Jim Thome, the game of baseball was just that. The left-handed slugger had the natural ability to be a presence in the batter’s box, and of course, knock 'em out of the park.
He will finally be awarded for his playing days at then Jacobs Field with a permanent fixture inside the ballpark for many years to come.
The club announced at Saturday’s Tribe Fest event they will unveil the new Thome statue at Progressive Field on August 2, against the Texas Rangers.
“It’s a humbling thing to talk about,” Thome said. "I’m a little lost for words to be honest. As a player, I don’t even want say you dream of that. I can’t imagine knowing what that day will mean to us and to me personally.”
To say the former first baseman left his mark on the game during his 22 year big league career may be an understatement. A five-time All-Star, Thome ranks first in Indians history in career home runs (337) and walks (1,008), while also ranking second all-time in RBI (937).
In terms of overall Major League success, Thome is one of eight players in baseball history to hit 600 home runs in a career. His 612 home runs rank seventh on baseball’s all-time home run list, making him virtually a lock for baseball glory in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Lakewood sculptor David Eming built the new statue and Thome has been in awe of how the entire sculpture is coming along.
“I’ve had the opportunity the last couple of years to come in here and see the way they’re building it, and I’ve been taken back when I see it because it’s a special thing. It means a lot.”
The new statue of Thome will be just the second at Progressive Field, joining the legendary Bob Feller statue outside of Gate C.
"I always looked at Feller," Thome said. "Looking at Feller's statue, you appreciate the player, but also the fact that it's up all year round. People can come see it. If you were their favorite player, maybe they're passing the memory like that along to a kid or to their family member.”
The statue will feature Thome in his most memorable aiming bat pose, just like he did so many times inside the batter’s box between pitches. It was almost a Hollywood script, as the famous bat point came from former Indians hitting coach Charlie Manuel after watching a scene in the baseball film, “The Natural.”
"Charlie had seen a clip of Roy Hobbs," Thome said. "And Hobbs had pointed the bat. I got in the box and everything was tense, everything was tight. He wanted to create that relaxing feeling in the box, so pointing the bat did that. It got my trigger ready to hit."
There have been plenty of special moments both on and off the field for the Peoria, Illinois native, but for his favorite moment as an Indian, he spoke highly of playing in October.
“I remember all the playoff games,” Thome said. “Playoff games to me meant so much. We knew we were good in 1994, but 1995 set the stage to the beginning to what I think we all knew was very special. We just had such a wonderful group of guys that cared about each other and had each other’s backs, it was incredible.”
Despite tours in Philadelphia, Chicago, L.A. Minnesota and Baltimore, Cleveland is where Thome still calls home.
“I met my wife here, the majority of our friends still live here, and it was the first organization that drafted me. My heart has always been here.”
It’s the same reason why the five-time All-Star was so eager to get back into town when the team requested him for the Tribe Fest event.
“Getting back and connecting with the fans was the most important,” Thome said. "I wanted to come and sit down and interconnect with the fans, and let them know how much I appreciated all that they’ve done not only for me, but all of our teams when we were here.”
He also sees some similarities between those 90’s teams and the current Indians club today.
“They’re hungry, they’re young, and they’re good. They remind me of our teams in the early 90’s. They’re passionate and they will do anything to get better. I think the organization is giving them everything they need to get better.”
Currently serving as a speical advisor with the Chicago White Sox, Thome has yet to officially hang up his cleats. The 43 year-old though did hint at what he sees himself potentiall doing in the near future.
“I would love to manage one day,” Thome said. “I think there’s a process that goes along with that, but I think my calling card is on the field. I’ve always been a ballplayer, so if that opportunity came around I would love to get back in the dugout and maybe manage a ballclub."
Unlike recent Hall of Fame inductee Greg Maddux, the former Tribe first baseman also made sure to note that if he were elected into Cooperstown, he’s going in with a Chief Wahoo logo on the hat of his plaque.
Whether you agree with the decision for the Indians legend to have a statue or not, it’s time for Tribe fans both young and old to embrace both the person and player Thome was, and the impact he will forever claim at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
There's no question he’s finally back home.
And this time, permanently.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
It would have been interesting to extend Omar for another three years with an option and let Peralta take over at 3rd, since there were questions about Peralta's defense from the start, and I still don't think Peralta's defense would have matched Vizquel's defense I even in his age 39-41 (even 42) seasons. In some ways, I'm surprised Peralta is still playing SS today- he's never been stellar or above-average- solid at times, but especially of late, below average. I have definitely seen him moving to 3B or even a corner OF spot (as DET did when he returned from his suspension last year).
That's the argument why Omar would be on my list before Sizemore in my opinion as well. Sizemore's career was way too short, and his peak years were even shorter- for a 113-year franchise, Sizemore wouldn't even make Top 25 for me. Thome would likely make Top 25, might have a chance at Top 10, but his HR power and rank alone would not put him near the top of the list for me with all of the other great players this franchise has had.
Robbie...maybe it's because it's been so long, but I don't believe he ever was serious about retiring in Cleveland. Lots of guys say things like that (though don't recall Robbie saying it) but guys rarely mean it. Considering Robbie had already left two teams in free agency I doubt see why the Tribe should have trusted his "loyalty". Plus the guy wasn't good after he left Cleveland....no way the Tribe resigns him after that deal expired to keep him and Omar as the DP combo thru 2004.
I definitely don't think Thome deserves a free pass for leaving...but think we should honor him for what he did while in Cleveland. Is the All-Time leading HR hitter in Tribe history, a record that is likely to stand for a good long while IMO. Was always well loved when here as well, brought up through the system. I don't completely forgive him for leaving but can look past it.
Sure you could argue Thome was never the best player on those 90s teams...but he'll be the one staple that gets into the Hall of Fame, or at least the first one (Omar probably gets in but will take him a while). Hoping we don't stop at a Thome statue...hoping we see an Omar one as well.
Thome's #25 should be retired too once he's in the Hall of Fame. Same with Omar's #13. Would like to see Lofton's #7 retried as well but with him missing out on the HOF probably isn't gonna happen (though think he is a good Veteran's Committee candidate)...
If I had to rank Tribe players, at the top of my head, I'd list:
1. Bob Feller
2. Tris Speaker
3. Jim Thome
4. Kenny Lofton
5. Lou Boudreau
6. Bob Lemon
7. Gaylord Perry (what he lacks in years, he makes up in brilliance)
8. Larry Doby
9. San Coveleski
10. Grady Sizemore (again, few years, it plenty of star power)
Thome fits in nicely with all those players, and we would not have won two pennants without him
I agree with Jon that it's arguable, at best, that Thome's top ten all time, and I could certainly name ten people or players that have more significance in one way or another than Thome. This is no knock on him, but that's just the truth.
If it's me making a statue, I'd go Doby or Boudreau long before Thome. Doby for obvious reasons. The rest of the league never gives him credit for what he's done, so it would be nice for Cleveland to do something above and beyond. He also played on a World Series winning team.
Boudreau was the last manager to take a team to the series, and also happened to be the MVP that year, but hey, Thome has the most home runs in Indians history! And a whopping 337!!
Chripes, Nap had the team named after him.
Tris Speaker, another hall of famer who was a player manager for a Cleveland World Series.
Whatever, the whole thing is idiotic to begin with. Thome's my favorite Indian, but objectively, he's not worthy of a freaking statue. Just my opinion.
btw, anonymous filled in when posting earlier on my phone. I'd like a statue for Omar too! I draw the line at Daddy Wags though...Rick Manning will definitely not get a statue (but I'd be ok with a Buddy Bell) 8--)
This is a wonderful tribute to a player who is unarguably an all-time tribe great. Hard to believe that there are people who are still bitter about a player moving on to another team, this is kinda the way it works now and has for awhile...
So, Tigers' fans can gloat, but we had all of them in their primes. Plus, perhaps those Tigers' fans are worried because the Tigers didn't look so invincible last year, weakened in some areas in the offseason, and it's almost certain they will not go 15-4 against us in 2014, probably the only reason they managed to win their third straight AL Central title. So, they want to gloat now, but, hopefully, we'll be the ones to get the last laugh in '14.
Stay strong up there in Toledo- Go Tribe!