PHILADELPHIA -- No player on the Phillies' Wall of Fame had a shorter tenure with the Phillies than Jim Thome.But perhaps no player better represented the rebirth of baseball in this city than he did. The Phillies had been perennial doormats in the National League East for years, when former
PHILADELPHIA -- No player on the Phillies' Wall of Fame had a shorter tenure with the Phillies than Jim Thome.
But perhaps no player better represented the rebirth of baseball in this city than he did. The Phillies had been perennial doormats in the National League East for years, when former general manager Ed Wade signed Thome to a six-year, $85 million contract in December 2002.
"Overnight he changed the way people looked at the Phillies," former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said during Thome's Wall of Fame induction ceremony Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Thome led the National League with 47 home runs in 2003, as the Phillies fell just short of the National League Wild Card. He hit 42 homers in 2004 and seven more in 2005, finishing the season on the disabled list. Ryan Howard emerged in his shadow, winning the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year. The Phillies traded Thome to the White Sox that winter, but the baseball renaissance he started in Philadelphia did not fade.
"I don't think one guy actually comes in and changes things," said Thome, who rejoined the Phillies briefly in 2012. "I think what happens is, if a guy signs, you see other guys follow. And even though you don't see at that moment, say a world championship that season, eventually you're working towards that. When I came here and Ed and Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and Mr. [Bill] Giles and Mr. [David] Montgomery, all those guys kind of told us what the plan was. It put us in a position where we felt really good about what Philadelphia could be. I felt the love in a lot of areas, not only in the organization. You could see there was something special here that was about to emerge."
Manuel introduced Thome, who stood alongside fellow Wall of Famers like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, Tony Taylor and Jim Bunning. Former teammate Bobby Abreu unveiled Thome's Wall of Fame plaque. A highlight video captured the excitement of Thome's arrival and his many big moments with the Phillies, including his 400th career home run. Former teammates Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, David Bell and Nick Punto wished Thome congratulations with recorded messages on Phanavision. So did country music star Tim McGraw.
Of course, Thome never got his World Series with the Phillies or anybody else over the course of his career. It is perhaps the only thing on his baseball bucket list he could not check off.
But Thome still rooted hard for the Phillies, who won the World Series in 2008. He showed up to Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park and watched Game 5 at home.
"The business of the game, that's kind of how things work," Thome said. "I moved on, [Howard] got to emerge, which helped the Phillies along with my other teammates that I got to play with. I was just so happy that they were able to accomplish that, because when you play as many games as we do, we're ultimately brothers. You do root for your brothers."
And Friday night Thome joined an elite Phillies brotherhood.
"You are humbled that they would think that highly of you to put you in a great fraternity," Thome said. "Baseball Hall of Fames -- they just don't give people that honor. To be voted by the fans -- that's something special. I know that I didn't play here long, and I know there are so many guys that are going to be in this that are deserving. I just feel so honored that they would think of me to put me in."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.