Indians Announce Jim Thome Statue to be Built in Center Field Heritage Park

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.

It came as a surprise to Thome as well:

“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.

What do you think?

  • @ClevelandGooner

    Seems a bit excessive. But if they’re really going to do a statue, I want it to be of Shoe-less Jim Thome in the back of a pickup truck.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I hate to be a wet blanket, but I’m of the mind that statues are reserved for legends of the game, not just a one category statistical team leader. I would also argue that Lofton and Vizquel were just as important parts of those teams as Thome. Are they getting statues too?

    As the all time HR leader, I’m all for retiring number 25. He certainly is an all time great Indian..but the statue seems a bit much. Just my gut reaction…

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    if only they had won the world series.

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    i feel like all of our lives would be different somehow.

  • Ghost To Most

    If the Cavs can retire an average players jersey number, the Indians can build Thome a statue.

    And Thome is one of only 8 players in MLB history to hit 600 home runs. What exactly qualifies as “legendary”?

  • Bob O’Brien

    People forget that one of the “creative” tactics used at the time to try and get Thome to re-sign (when he left for the Phillies) was to write into the contract that a statute would be built and a street named after him.

    I have no problem with the statue, the 90’s are always going to be cherished times. But you have to wonder what Omar, Kenny, Charlie Nagy, and others are thinking about the decision…all players who rode out their contracts with the Indians to their end, and who have remained close with the ball club.

  • Evan Shanley

    Great post. I agree that could definitely be a slippery slop with great starts of the 90’s, but Thome & Omar would be great representatives of the era. I always loved Manny as well, but it isn’t right to enshrine someone who was proven to have used PED’s.

  • Alex

    Had Thome played his whole career here i could understand a statue. Had he helped the Tribe win a world series ie. walk off series clinching HR, or something of that nature, i could understand a statue. Being 1 of 8 to hit 600 with no gear is certianly an accomplishment and first ballot HOF deserving, but statue no.

  • nobody

    I agree, Thome doesn’t deserve a statue on his own. If they decide to put other 90’s Indians players later (Manny, Lofton, Vizquel, Belle, Alomar), I’m all for it.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Jim Thome, in 13 seasons with the Indians:

    BA .287
    SLG .566
    HR 337
    RBI 936
    Hits 1361

    Other than the fact that he is the all time franchise HR leader, none of these numbers are “legendary” to me. Jim Thome was a very good hitter for a long period of time, but calling him a legend of the game is a stretch for me.

    I honestly don’t care that much…I’m not going to be protesting the building of the statue or boycotting the Indians because of it. I just don’t think “statue” when I think Jim Thome.

  • BOB ROHRL

    THOME LEFT THE TEAM FOR MORE MONEY. NO DEDICATION, NO CLEVELAND COMMITMENT. NO STATUE IN CLEVELAND (PERIOD)

  • christopher

    Nap Lajoie, Lou Boudreau, Tris Speaker and Larry Doby just rolled over in their graves.

    Chicago has a statue of Michael Jordan outside the Madhouse, Green Bay has a statue of Vince Lombardi outside the Frozen Tundra……..Cleveland will soon have a statue of Jim Thome. fitting.

  • bayrocket

    Jim playing defense was the epiTHOME of statue. Rock me.

  • Fred G.

    Good for Thome. Glad he’s around to enjoy.

  • Tim

    While I have mixed feelings about the Thome statue I don’t get the argument that he is not a legend of the game. He is one of the greatest power hitters of all time, and is near the top of baseballs most prestigious and sacred list, all time home runs. That qualifies as legendary.

  • christopher

    @Tim

    IMO it’s the lack of a championship. The title of “legend” is reserved for those that have elevated their team to the next level.

    The 90’s Indians were not a group that Thome made rise to his level of competition; they were all unbelievable athletes which reaped the benefits of each other.

    Secondly you obviously have to take his departed terms into consideration before bestowing the “legend” moniker upon him as well.

    Whether you forgive him or not that was a mess that a legend like Jordan, Bird, Montana, Lombardi would never have done.

  • Tim

    @ Christopher

    I agree the lack of a championship is a good reason to question a statue… But there is a long list of baseball legends never to win a title (see the Bob Feller statue outside Progressive Field). Of all the team sports baseball is the most individual.

    Also I wouldn’t say Thome left the team a mess… They were already rebuilding, already had a messy situation. But you are right, his exit was was ugly.

  • Tim

    Scratch thar Feller comment had a major bran cramp there.

  • Ghost To Most

    Nap Lajoie, Lou Boudreau, Tris Speaker and Larry Doby, yeah I guess Chris has a point there :D

    Maybe a statue is a bit much.

  • M D

    #16
    Montana finished with the Chiefs (traded) and Lombardi(retired and then left) with the Redskins.

  • Ghost To Most

    Nap Lajoie, Lou Boudreau, Tris Speaker and Larry Doby, ok Chris has got a point there.

    Maybe a statue is a bit much.

  • snap

    Okay so pretty much everyone on here complains and trolls. The guy is one of the most loved players in cleveland indians history he deserves the statue. He was already gonna get a plaque in heritage park anyways. A giant Thome statue will probably bring more people into that section of progressive field.

  • Pat18970

    How about a statue of Albert Belle?

    With his bat floating in Lake Erie?

  • Tim Bommelman Jr

    He deserves it! 100%. As a die hard Twins fan, since the age of 7 (22 years)….He is as classy as they come and just a fantasic and classy move by the Indians! Congrats Mr Thome and the city of Cleveland!

    PS: move on from the Lebron issue please Clev

  • christopher

    @Snap

    This site is a well written Cleveland Sports Blog and it’s community of “commentors” are are even keeled, realistic and positive as they come.

    Hang around for awhile, you’ll see.

  • Ghost To Most

    Sorry for posting the same comment twice. I experienced some type of server hiccup when I tried to post it the first time. The comment did not appear, so I posted it again and whaddya know, both comments showed up.

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    After thinking about it for a couple of days, I think the statue is a strange move.

    It seems there are two thoughts on his departure in 2003:
    — He left for more money and years
    — Indians forced his move by under-bidding

    In either case, why would you build a statue of the guy? Had he somehow stayed in Cleveland for his entire career and ended-up the team statistical leader in so many ways, sure that’s who you build a statue of.

    This move is just plain weird. The Indians organization seems to want to have their bit of the celebration of the player, but it’s like celebrating your ex-girlfriend’s 10th wedding anniversary to some other guy.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/ErikDanielDrost?feature=mhee Erik

    The statue seems fine with me. Besides maybe Omar, Thome is the only Hall of Famer who will go in as a member of the Indians from those 90s teams.

  • Steve

    Why does this have to be so soon? I get remembering the almost-great days of the 90s, but whats the rush? The Indians front office made a huge play to Joe Cleveland Fan, a group that really has no interest in supporting them. It’s just sad. Thome was a great player, A hall of famer, but the appropriate response is to retire his number the day he goes in the Hall, not to placate the whiny fans who don’t understand why things can never be like the mid 90s again.

  • troy

    I always hate when people blame a player like Thome for leaving or “quiting” on the Indians. He did no such thing. The Indians quit on him just like they have with so many great players. They just aren’t willing or able to pay big money for great players, simple as that.

    Thome is a symbol of the tradition of baseball and while the statue is a surprise I love it.

  • whipjacka

    the question is: would thome get a statue if he wasn’t traded to the tribe this year?

  • Steve

    Troy – He said “tear the shirt off my back” and he pulled a bait and switch on the Indians in contract negotiations. At least Belle and Ramirez had the decency to be straight up with us. Thome fooled us completely, and used the Indians as leverage to get the biggest contract he could. But I guess you’re right, that is the new tradition of baseball.

  • Kevin

    Why are we giving this bum a statue. He leaves us because of his greed and then comes back and it’s it like, here ya go….come on now….this town is ridiculous….we offered him a statue, a street named after him and everything, and he turned it down….and now we honor this bum….

  • Eric G

    I really like it. I was as big a Thome-basher as anyone when he left and have heard conflicting reports since about who is really to blame for the contract negotiations.

    When they brought him back this year, I felt like all of that went away and it was just nice to see the big guy back in his proper uni.

    The statue itself is more fitting for the “younger” Tribe fans. I’m in my 30s and didn’t start following the Tribe until the very late-80s, so the 90s are what I really know about this team. And while the “legends” of the past certainly are more deserving based on some of the comments above, for the newer generation I think this is a perfect fit.

    I also agree that an Omar statue would be absolutely fantastic!