It only seems like yesterday that Jim Thome hit his 400th home run in Philadelphia back on June 14, 2004.
“Could it be, could it be? It is outta here! Number 400 for Jim Thome!”
That call by Harry Kalas still rings in our ears. It makes me emotional to hear it.
Over seven seasons later, Thome, who may still be a shell of his former home run hitting machine-like self, battled the test of time to reach a milestone only seven other players have reached.
Thome’s 600th home run landed in the bull pen in left field, an inning after #599, in Minnesota’s win over the Tigers last night. The ball was served up by Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth.
“It’s an unbelievable night, obviously,” Thome said. “I think it’s something you never dream of doing. You dream about it, but when it finally happens, it’s kind of surreal. It’s a neat thing, it really is. Hitting home runs can be very difficult.
“You sit in bed at night and you think how’s it going to be. How are you going to do this? It goes back, it goes back to trying to slow yourself down and not being too antsy, too hyped up, and it’s just a great night. To share it with my teammates there at home plate, my family, obviously, I love you. It’s a very, very special night.”
Only seven other men in the history of baseball reached that plateau (we all know what the asterisk denotes): Barry Bonds* (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714 home runs), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Alex Rodriguez* (626), Sammy Sosa* (609) and now Thome.
At 40 years, 353 days old, Thome also became the oldest player to hit his 600th homer. The Cubs’ Sosa previously held that distinction at 38 years, 220 days, when he reached the mark in 2007.
Thome is one of the game’s nicest guys. He was a fan favorite in Philadelphia for his four seasons here and he will always be seen as a Phillie to our fans – though when the time is right, his plaque in Cooperstown will don an Indians hat for sure.
A father figure to Thome is Philadelphia’s own Charlie Manuel. Manuel was Thome’s hitting coach in Cleveland and Thome dedicated a lot of home runs to Manuel.
“Charlie stood by all of us. Charlie built confidence in us. Charlie pounded his fist on the table and (said) ‘I believe in these guys. I want these guys on our club.
“He instilled confidence…. ‘When you go to home plate, you’re the man, YOU’RE the guy.’
“Charlie has been very, very special to me throughout my career. I dedicate a lot of those home runs to him because he’s been there with a lot of confidence. And in times of struggle he built us up and pep talked us.”
Congratulations to you, Thome. You made many fans in Philadelphia by being a true legend. Not many could hit the long ball quite like you. Thank you for honoring baseball by playing it the right way: with a heavy bat, a smile on your face and a clean system.