Aug 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians former player Jim Thome talks during an unveiling ceremony of a statue of himself before the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Former Charlotte Knight Jim Thome Retires

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Former Charlotte Knights third baseman Jim Thome, the slugger who had not played an inning since 2012, signed a one-day contract with the Cleveland Indians and officially retired from baseball yesterday. The Indians unveiled a statue to Thome as part of the celebration.

Jim Thome: the Charlotte Knight

In 1993, the Charlotte Knights were a farm team of the Cleveland Indians and saw several players go through Charlotte on their way to becoming part of an Indians roster that challenged for dominance throughout the nineties. That crew won the International League twenty-one years ago.

That is where I come in. My father took me to my first baseball game that year, which was at Knights Castle. I knew little about the Knights at that point and was somewhat disappointed that they had left the Cubs farm system for the Indians farm system the year before. My neighborhood friends were all Cubs fans and I had followed suit.

“612 HR 1747 BB, Both Marks: 7th All Time”

So Dad and I were watching the Knights play and a big deal was made about journeyman DH Sam Horn. Horn had power that made him prolific in the minors and never quite stay in the majors. It was always a big deal when Horn came up, but I started paying attention to someone else.

Where Horn would either hit a dinger or strike out, the Knights third baseman had a much more productive game collecting hits and getting walks. I remember Jim Thome. I don’t remember the final score or a slender Manny Ramirez, both things worth remembering.

For me it was always gratifying to see Thome doing well in the league. This continued even through the time when I felt betrayed by baseball over the Steroid Era.

Thome was with Charlotte Knights for most of the 1993 season. He hit 25 homers, had 102 RBI, and .332 BA.

Jim Thome: Major Leaguer

Thome was part of an improved Cleveland Indians roster in 1994. In 1995, the team broke through only to lose to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Thome continued to improve and was part of a second Cleveland attempt to win a World Series in 1997. Thome was moved to first base that year and mostly played that position or DH the rest of his career. His best year in Cleveland was his last, in 2002. At that point the feared Indians of the nineties had gone away.

Thome went looking for a title after that and signed an impressive contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, hoping he could win his title there. It did not happen. Thome was displaced by Ryan Howard and agreed to a trade to the Chicago White Sox where he could be near his father.

Three years with Chicago saw Thome continue to put up good numbers, but the White Sox could not field the contender he desired. They traded Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers. When nothing happened here, he jumped to the Minnesota Twins for two seasons. Although he played somewhat better, time was catching up. Thome reached the 600 HR milestone with the Twins. Small stints with the Indians, Phillies, and Orioles ended the story. Thome didn’t retire in case someone might ask for his help. Yesterday, he finally gave that up.

September 30, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome at bat in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox 6 – 3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Thome: Stat Collector

.276 BA
1747 BB (7th All Time)
612 HR (7th All Time)
1699 RBI
.402 OBP

The Future?

Thome will be Hall of Fame eligible in 2018. He played his entire amazing career in the Steroid Era, and there will likely be debate on whether his totals were aided by PEDs or not. Like other sluggers, Thome has no positive tests that I’m aware of. However the consensus by the baseball writers has been guilty until proven innocent. Thome will be another test to those sentiments, and given his personality, it’s hard to imagine he ever made an enemy in his life. I hope they don’t keep him out, though I understand if they do.

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