Jim Thome never knew the launch angle or the exit velocity of all those baseballs that crashed so violently off his mighty bat during his 22-year career.
“You’re probably glad you didn’t know,” the former Phillies slugger said Thursday afternoon, following a brief ceremony at Citizens Bank Park to commemorate his upcoming induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We just talked about hitting it hard.”
Thome hit the ball hard enough 612 times that the result was a home run. That ranks eighth on the all-time list; 101 of those came with the Phillies, including the 400th of his career 14 years ago Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. His 300th came with the Cleveland Indians, his 500th with the Chicago White Sox, and his 600th with the Minnesota Twins.
He will undoubtedly thank all those teams at his July 29 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, but this day was reserved for thanking members of his Phillies family. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is always at the top of Thome’s list when it comes to passing out credit for his great career, but the larger-than-life slugger also thanked his first Phillies manager face to face.
“Larry Bowa – so fiery,” Thome said. “You made me love the game even more than I already did.”
Thome also thanked former team president David Montgomery and former general manager Ed Wade, the two men most responsible for bringing him to Philadelphia before the 2003 season. They got him here with a six-year, $85 million contract, but he would only play here for half of that time because of the emergence of Ryan Howard.
Thome did return for half a season in 2012, but by then the Phillies’ run of five straight division titles was over, and soon his career would be, too. It was a brief tenure, but Thome still deserves credit for bringing baseball back to life in Philadelphia by signing here as a free agent in 2003, and he obviously has fond memories of this place, too.
“There were so many people in my Philly time, that I wanted to make sure they knew how important they were to me and what they meant to me,” Thome said. “You don’t really get to tell them until you’re asked or until you’re in a situation like today.”
In six weeks, he will be forever remembered in Cooperstown with a plaque that is reserved for the game’s greatest players.
“It’s a sacred place,” Thome said. “When you get to walk down that hall and you see the names that are on the wall, it will give you chills. It will make a grown man cry. The emotion that goes through you is incredible. I was never in a fraternity in college, because I went and played baseball, but I would have to believe that’s the ultimate fraternity to be in with that group of people.”