CHICAGO -- White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf had a nickname for newly elected first-ballot Hall of Famer Jim Thome when they regularly faced him during his time with the Indians.That nickname was shared by Williams with Thome, one of the game's great sluggers, after
CHICAGO -- White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf had a nickname for newly elected first-ballot Hall of Famer Jim Thome when they regularly faced him during his time with the Indians.
That nickname was shared by Williams with Thome, one of the game's great sluggers, after the White Sox acquired Thome via trade from the Phillies on Nov. 25, 2005. Actually, it was a nickname Williams didn't initially want to share until an intrigued Thome insisted.
"I said, 'Yeah, well, your nickname is Jim [expletive] Thome, because it seems like every time we played you, you did the kind of damage to where we were going, there's Jim [expletive] Thome again,'" Williams said with a laugh. "I didn't like him very much prior to us getting him."
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Thome, who received 379 votes for 89.8 percent support from the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters as announced Wednesday night by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, hit .300 with 43 homers and 117 RBIs lifetime against the White Sox. Aaron Rowand, who was traded to Philadelphia for Thome, was asked what it was like to face Thome as the opposition.
Rowand's response was summed up by two words.
"A nightmare," Rowand said. "It was my second year in the big leagues, and I went in for defense for Carlos Lee late in the game and Bobby Howry was on the mound. We were in Cleveland, and [Thome] hit a ball over my head, a home run that went about half-to-three-quarters up the bleachers in left field.
"It was a no-doubter right off of his bat the other way. I remember jogging off the field thinking, 'I cannot believe how far that human being just hit the ball the other way.' He was amazing."
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Over four seasons with the White Sox, Thome had 134 home runs, 369 RBIs and a .933 OPS. He launched his 500th career homer in walkoff fashion against the Angels' Dustin Moseley on Sept. 16, 2007, during a game in which Vladimir Guerrero also went deep. Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman were elected to the Hall along with Thome on Wednesday.
Thome's mammoth solo home run off of Nick Blackburn gave the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Twins and the 2008 American League Central crown in a tiebreaker game at U.S. Cellular Field. But Thome is an even better person, with the good-natured accessibility he showed as a player continuing on in his current role as a special assistant to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
"The adjectives come easily when describing Jim Thome," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Class, strength, honesty, integrity, character, Hall of Famer."
"He was an amazing person, player, hitter, teammate," Rowand said. "As much as he doesn't like receiving, he gives that much more of himself to other people."
Rowand recounted the story of getting a call from Thome, who he knew at the time but not well, a few days after the 2005 trade, with Thome simply trying to help the center fielder by offering information on Philadelphia. Rowand did the same for Thome about Chicago.
During the White Sox recent hitters mini-camp, Williams said the room was silent when Thome spoke to the players during a chalk-talk session.
"The approachability has been invaluable to our young hitters," Williams said. "Ultimately, when you see some of them come through the big leagues -- and I think some of them have the chance to become stars -- it will be largely for some of these talks that we were having right now, and them paying close attention to Jim Thome."
Joyce Thome, Jim's mother, died following a battle with lung cancer on Jan. 5, 2005, and Thome, a proud native of Peoria, Ill, and a true family man, said joining the White Sox and having his family so close helped ease the pain of his mom's death. Thome made five other Major League stops after his White Sox tenure, but he found a true baseball family in Chicago.
"I love the fans, I love the White Sox organization and they've always treated me with the utmost respect," said Thome, who received the news Wednesday with his wife, Andrea, and children, Lila and Landon, close by at home. "That starts at the top with Jerry Reinsdorf. He's one of the true gentlemen, good men in the game that loves the game."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.