Bah, who needs drama and fanfare?Who needs all the interviews and tension that the wait between home run 599 and 600 would bring? Obviously not Jim Thome, who followed his first at bat home run vs the Detroit Tigers Monday night (that brought him 1 shy of 600) with number 600 on his second at bat.
And that, my friends, is how history is made.
"Hitting home runs can be very difficult," Thome said. "You sit in bed at night and you think about how's it going to be, how are you going to do this? It goes back to trying to slow yourself down and not being too antsy, too hyped up. It's just a great night.”
Jim Thome became the eighth player to ever reach the 600 home run nilestone and though the homer has become somewhat muddled in recent years thanks to the steroid craze, it is still an impressive milestone that deserves celebration.
After he hit number 600, the Tigers crowd gave the Minnesota slugger a standing ovation as he rounded the bases, a class act by people who recognized the impact to the history of the game that shot represents. Tigers pitcher Daniel Schlereth has the dubious honor of joining Thome in the record books as the pitcher that gave up number 600.
"He was always one of my favorite players growing up, so if I had to be on the losing end of it, going into the record books, there's not a better guy than Jim Thome," Schlereth said. "I'm proud of the guy he is and what he means to this game. You know, there hasn't been a whole lot of talk about his 600 home runs, but there should be more talk, because that guy has been — he is — an outstanding player, and great for a very long time."
The best part about Jim Thome's 600 home runs is that there is no taint to them. Sure, he played throughout the Steroids era but that cloud never seemed to drift his way. By all accounts, he's as nice and likable as anybody in baseball and teammates have nothing but respect for him.
"He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet … to everything except the baseball, he still hits that really hard," said Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer. "He has great fire to him. It's not like, when he strikes out, he says, 'Oh, that was such a good pitch.' It's nothing like that. That's the perception some people have of him, but he hates to lose. When he walks in a room, everyone watches everything he does. It's the way he treats people, it's the way he respects the game. When I heard he was re-signing with us, I was so happy for a lot of reasons, but one reason was I wanted to be there for when he hit No. 600. Every night, I would pray that I was on base when he hit his 600th home run."
Thome is the epitome of what baseball is striving for and what every player should emulate. Likable, honest and someone that stands out not for any criminal or tasteless act but for decency and the drive to play the game the right way. It's rare to find a player, a man, like him.
Baseball is a better sport because of Jim Thome. Congratulations on joining the 600 club.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS