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Tribe Notes

Jim Ingraham: Jim Thome ranks among the best as a player ... and as a person

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    Former Cleveland Indian Jim Thome speaks to fans after having a statue dedicated to him inside Progressive Field on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Thome will be honored at today's Indians game against the Orioles.

    AP

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The Yankees, Red Sox and Indians, the top three home run hitting teams in the major leagues this year, have combined to hit 529 home runs.

That’s 83 fewer than Jim Thome hit.

By himself.

For his career.

For his Hall of Fame career.

Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers hit 331 home runs in his career. Jim Thome hit 339 home runs — at home.

Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, Yonder Alonso and Michael Brantley have hit a combined 124 home runs this year. Jim Thome hit 128 home runs — in June.

Bryce Harper has 180 career homers. Jim Thome had 182 home runs — in day games.

Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have hit a combined 86 home runs this year. Jim Thome hit 90 home runs — in the fourth inning.

Now you know why, at the Hall of Fame Dinner last month, Jim Thome sat at The Sluggers’ Table.

Jim Thome, first ballot Hall of Famer – there are only 54 of those species — will be honored today at Progressive Field, where he hit 190 of his 612 career home runs.

Since 1901, when the Indians began play as a charter member of the American League, there have been 1,855 players who have worn the uniform of the Cleveland Professional Baseball Club.

None of them hit more home runs than Thome, whose club-record 337 are almost 100 more than the next closest player, which is Albert Belle (242).

Thome’s 612 career home runs rank eighth all time, sixth among non-steroid sluggers. On the non-steroid ledger only two left-handed hitters in history hit more home runs than Thome: Babe Ruth (714) and Ken Griffey Jr. (630).

Those are a lot of numbers, all of them great, but not half as great as Thome the person. He’s as high on the all-time good guy list as he is on the all-time home run list.

“He’s just so impressive on so many fronts,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, a mere 596 career home runs behind Thome.

“It’s easy to be so proud of him, and for him,” Francona said. “He’s really a good ambassador for the game.”

That’s basically what Thome has been since finishing his Peoria-to-Cooperstown career journey with his induction into the Hall of Fame last month.

“From Wednesday through Sunday (on induction weekend), it was so emotional,” Thome said. “That my Dad was there, who got to see my debut and live my whole career. To sitting on a rocking chair on the porch of the hotel, looking out at the lake and having Johnny Bench tell me what it’s like to be a Hall of Famer, to the Hall of Fame dinner and getting to sit at the sluggers’ table. It’s been fabulous, a really special time for my family.”

It will become even more special today when Thome becomes the seventh player in Indians history to have his number (25) retired. Thome will join Bob Feller, Mel Harder, Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby and Bob Lemon in that exclusive club.

The most recent of those players to have played for the Indians were Doby and Lemon, whose last games with the Indians were 60 years ago, in 1958.

It’s been a long drought. A drought longer even than the 511-foot home run Thome hit — the longest in Progressive Field history — on July 3, 1999. The ball sailed over the trees in center field, heading in the general direction toward Cooperstown, before hitting a fence bordering Eagle Avenue.

Thome played for six major league teams during his 22-year, 2,543-game career. But the vast majority of the home runs, thrills and chills he produced came at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, during the 13 years he spent wearing an Indians uniform.

He’s the Indians’ career leader in walks with 1,008 — 151 more than No. 2 Tris Speaker (Tris Speaker!), who drew his last walk for the Indians when Calvin Coolidge was in the White House (1926). Thome’s career total of 1,747 walks ranks seventh on baseball’s all-time list.

Thome is everywhere on the Indians’ all-time lists: second in RBIs, third in slugging, third in on-base percentage, third in OPS, fourth in total bases, fifth in runs and — yes — a resounding first in strikeouts with 1,400, over 500 more than Travis Hafner, who is second with 882.

Only one player in major league history struck out more times than the 2,548 times Thome walked from home plate back to the dugout.

Reggie Jackson struck out a major league record 2,597 times.

That’s a lot of strikeouts, but those are two first-ballot Hall of Famers.

For Thome, these are unimaginable days from that long ago day in June of 1989 when the Indians selected an unknown shortstop out of Illinois Central College in the draft’s 13th round.

Lucky 13.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or jingraham@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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