The dream of the '90s is alive with Thome

Former slugger thrilled to represent dominant Cleveland teams in Hall of Fame

February 2nd, 2018

CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome was trying to be quiet, because his wife was trying to sleep in the next room, but he was having a hard time containing his excitement on Thursday night. Thome was talking on the phone with Sandy Alomar Jr., and text messages were coming in from Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga.

Since being voted into the Hall of Fame last week, Thome has been experiencing the good old days all over again. There have been countless calls and hundreds of texts. There has been a lot of remember-when storytelling and plenty of full-belly laughter following. Thursday's chats were in an effort to organize a Spring Training dinner for the former Tribe greats, and Thome was loving every second of it.

"My excitement level is through the roof," Thome said on Friday. "What this has done is bring back so many memories, because now we can talk about it and share it."

Hall of Fame info

There are other players from the great Cleveland teams of the 1990s in the Hall of Fame, names like Roberto Alomar, Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray. Thome, though, is the first who will be enshrined with an Indians logo on his plaque. He is the franchise's all-time home run king (337), a member of the 600-home run club and now the 13th player to go into the Hall with the Indians as his primary team.

Thome sat down with Indians radio voice Tom Hamilton on Friday in downtown Cleveland for a lengthy discussion about being voted into the Hall, among other topics. The wide-ranging conversation in front of season-ticket holders was taped and will air at 7 p.m. ET on Feb. 9 on SportsTime Ohio.

This year's Hall of Fame class is a big one. Thome will be joined on the dais by former players Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell for the induction ceremony on July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Thome will serve as the representative of the 1990s Tribe teams that went to the World Series in '95 and '97 and featured arguably one of the greatest lineups in baseball history.

Thome's teammates are thrilled that he is getting the chance to put those teams back in the spotlight.

"You know how there's a saying about good guys finish last?" Alomar said. "I'm so glad that a great, geunine person like Jim Thome is in the Hall of Fame. He was such a hard worker and a great teammate. He's the most genuine guy I've ever seen. It's good to see people like that reach their goals and the Hall of Fame. And also to have a guy from those '90s Indians to be in it. We had such great teams in that era."

Thome hopes to have Hall of Fame company from those teams, though.

He was disappointed when Lofton -- one of the great base thiefs and center fielders of his era -- was bounced from the ballot in 2013 after receiveing just 3.2 percent of the vote on the first try. Similarly, Thome is hoping that more voters will check Omar Vizquel's name in the future. Vizquel (an 11-time Gold Glove Award winner) was named on 37 percent of the ballots this year, which was his first year of eligibility.

"Kenny Lofton, to me, is a Hall of Famer. Omar Vizquel's a Hall of Famer," Thome said. "And you could go down the list. We all benefited from each other and I think the best part of this is the story will continue, because in my opinion, there will be more guys from our group to go in."

Until that day comes, Indians fans who make the trek to Cooperstown will have Thome as the symbol for that golden era of Cleveland baseball.

"To me, you're only as good as the people around you," Thome said. "We picked each other up all the time, motivated each other. Guys like Albert Belle, believe it or not, motivated us all to be great players. The leaders in Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga. The way Kenny played the game and leading off a game and setting a stage so high."

To Thome, they are all with him on this journey to Cooperstown, especially given all the stories being told and retold in the wake of the Hall of Fame voting results.

"That is truly what the game is about," Thome said.