Indians retire Hall of Famer Thome's No. 25

Slugger spent his first 13 seasons in the Majors with the Tribe

August 18th, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Just as Jim Thome had done so many times throughout his 22-year Major League Baseball career, his exit from the pregame ceremony held in his honor at Progressive Field Saturday was only fitting.

Rounding the bases, Thome donned his Indians jersey while wearing his iconic stirrups and high socks, this time over dress slacks. He was mobbed at home plate by a flock of former Indians coaches and teammates, while a capacity crowd came to its feet in ovation for the pregame ceremony.

"It's good to be back and see a lot of people you care about and you want to thank," Thome said Friday. "You want to look them in the eye and thank them and tell them how much you appreciated what they did."

The newly-inducted Hall of Famer was honored by the Indians -- the team he was drafted by and whom he made his professional debut with -- for the 13 seasons spent with the Tribe, and his decorated career. The club presented the five-time All-Star two Progressive Field (formerly known as Jacobs Field through most of Thome's career) seats and a six-foot tall collage of Thome's No. 25, filled with photos from his tenure in Cleveland.

Thome's number was also retired, becoming the eighth Indian to receive the honor, along with Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Mel Harder, Bob Feller, Eddie Robinson and Bob Lemon.

Current Indians players honored Thome by wearing their socks at the knees, including manager Terry Francona, who was eager to do so only during pregame festivities.

"I'll do it for the ceremony, but I'm not doing a pitching change looking like a moron," Francona joked. "We don't very often take five or 10 minutes to enjoy stuff because we're so [busy]."

Following the enshrinement was a speech from Tom Hamilton, the voice of the Indians, anthologizing Thome's career -- from an upbringing in Peoria, Ill., to being selected as the Indians' 13th-round Draft pick out of Illinois Central College in 1989, to the countless hours spent working with former manager and hitting coach Charlie Manuel to open up his stance.

Joining Thome was his father, Chuck, along with his son, Landon, daughter, Lila, and wife, Andrea. Manuel and former Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove was also in attendance, along with Sandy Alomar Jr., Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Paul Shuey, Chad Ogea, Alvaro Espinoza, Paul Assenmacher and Wayne Kirby. Also in attendance was club owner Paul Dolan and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti.

"To this day, these guys are my brothers," Thome said. "And I'm so touched you would all travel to come here today. Please know, I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame without your help. This organization, from top to bottom, is first class"

It marked Thome's first trip to Cleveland since his Cooperstown induction last month, as he thanked most of the aforementioned, along with other club personnel. After Cleveland, Thome spent parts of his career with the Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles.

"His substance was his style, his style was in his substance," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Thome, who helped end a 15-year playoff drought with Baltimore in 2012. "Jimmy, in my mind, had more style than anybody going at that time. Just because of the way he presented himself. I could talk about him for hours, and I just had a little snippet of him."

He was honored by the White Sox on Aug. 11, and said he'll be honored in Minnesota next week. He officially retired with the Indians in 2014, after signing a one-day contract., the same day the Tribe unveiled a statue in his honor at Progressive Field.

Said Thome of traveling to his former clubs: "It really gives me the chance to isolate the people I care about that I didn't thank in the big speech that I can do. And I feel lucky to have the chance to do it."

Thome's trot around the bases was an especially fitting homage, given his 622 homers rank eighth all-time -- 337 of which were hit with the Indians. The mob scene at the plate may have reminded fans of the nine walk-off homers hit as an Indian. Thome's 13 walk-off homers are the most in MLB history.

"We were all brothers, and even though you retire, you move on, you kind of go about your life ... it's like old times," Thome said Friday. "That's the fun part. You get to be a teammate again to when we all shared something special."