As I noted earlier, last night was a amazing evening at Progressive Field. What happened on the field was magical, but it was already a special night before the game even started.
On Jim Thome Night, the Indians brought back some of Gentleman Jim’s old teammates. Mike Hargrove, Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento, and Chad Ogea all joined Thome and members of the Indians organization on the field prior to the game to celebrate his 600th home run. But the ceremony took an unexpected turn for the fans when Tom Hamilton announced that the Indians had commissioned a statue of Thome to be built in center field in Heritage Park. The plan is to place the statue at the spot where Thome’s 511 foot home run landed in July of 1999.
“I mean, that’s surreal,” he said in the postgame clubhouse. “A statue — that’s as good as it gets. I’m speechless.”
The statue will portray Thome in his pre-pitch pose, right arm and bat parallel to the ground, pointed towards the pitcher’s mound (no mention of where his other arm/hand will be positioned, but if it’s artistically honest and accurate, well…)
Much of the pregame media session was focused on whether this was the end of the road for Thome. Big Jim wouldn’t commit to that or answer those questions with a simple yes/no answer.
“When do you know it’s time? When do you know when to say, ‘OK, that’s it’? That’s the most difficult part of any decision. You don’t want to just throw the ‘R’ word out there…I try not to go there. If it is [the end], and I say, ‘if’, I thank the Twins, and I thank the Indians organization for giving me this opportunity to come back. I so appreciate that, no question.”
Building statues for that era of Indians baseball could be a slippery slope. There were obviously so many stars and wonderful moments. Stepping back now, a decade removed, Tribe fans tend to embrace Thome and Omar Vizquel as the symbols of that unparalleled era of baseball – something we’ll never see again. There’s been plenty of nostalgia and longing for re-creation of those teams and that organization.
And now Thome will serve as a permanent monument to that unforgettable era. My first reaction when I saw the news on twitter last night was: that’s a bit much, and a hasty decision (I was always more of a Manny fan). I started thinking about how Alabama put a statue of Nick Saban up outside Bryant-Denny stadium after he had been on the job 10 minutes. But then I thought about it some more – he’s the franchise leader in home runs, playing throughout club’s finest decade. As someone who attended hundreds of games throughout the nineties, I never want to forget those times and Jim Thome is as much as part of that as anyone – I think it’s a fitting tribute.
Brendan is a weekend editor at WaitingForNextYear. He has been writing for the site since March of 2009. He went to college in Boston during a run of insufferable Beantown championships that only served to reinforce his Cleveland allegiance and fandom which he transcribes to you here at WFNY.