Top 10 moments of Thome's career

August 27th, 2023

It's been nearly a decade since Jim Thome donned a professional uniform, but the image of him standing in the left-handed batter's box with his bat pointed at the pitcher before unleashing a vicious uppercut swing will never be forgotten.

A handful of years have passed since he took the podium in Cooperstown, thanking all his friends, family and teammates for helping him join elite company that few players get to experience. In 2018, Thome was elected into the Hall of Fame and chose to boast a block "C" on his cap, becoming the first Cleveland player to get inducted since 1976 (Bob Lemon) and the 13th for the club overall.

Let's take a look at the top 10 moments of Thome's career that helped lead him to Cooperstown.

1. Mr. 600
Aug. 15, 2011

Though most of his career took place in Northeast Ohio, his 22 Major League seasons also included stops in Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox), Los Angeles (Dodgers), Minnesota and Baltimore -- all of which played an integral part in creating his dazzling résumé, including this special moment with the Twins.

While many players get to enjoy the suspense (and sometimes agony) of the journey to eclipsing a major milestone in their careers, Thome had just minutes to realize he was one home run away from reaching 600. After launching a two-run homer off Detroit's Rick Porcello in the sixth inning for No. 599, Thome returned to the plate the following frame to smack No. 600 deep over the left-field wall, becoming only the eighth player in MLB history to reach that mark.

2. Cemented in history
July 3, 1999

Maybe for non-Cleveland fans this moment wouldn't rank this high in a list of his top moments, but any long ball that receives its own plaque at the ballpark deserves special recognition.

In the second inning of the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Royals, Thome crushed a 3-1 pitch into deep left-center field to the right of the last section of bleachers. It took one hop on the concourse before bouncing out to Eagle Avenue (or Larry Doby Avenue) and left everyone in astonishment. Years later, the team decided to retrace the ball's flight path and mark the ground where it bounced on the concrete on the concourse, recognizing it as the longest home run hit at Progressive Field (511 feet). A bronze plaque like those famously seen at Camden Yards was placed on the ground with Thome's name, the date of the homer and the distance to keep it a part of the ballpark's history.

3. The 500 club
Sept. 16, 2007

To get to 600 homers, one must reach the 500 milestone first. And in typical Thome fashion, his came with a little extra flare.

As a member of the White Sox, Thome entered the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at 7 against the Angels and a runner on first. With no outs and a full count, he lifted an opposite-field fly ball that had plenty of muscle behind it to land a handful rows into the left-center seats. The moment not only secured a come-from-behind victory for the White Sox that sent the stadium into a frenzy, but it marked the slugger's 500th long ball of his career. Thome rounded first base with his fist high above his head as a home run counter on the scoreboard flipped from "499" to "500."

4. Walk-off grand slam
July 28, 2002

So many backyard moments involve fantasizing about hitting the clutch walk-off grand slam for little kids dreaming of one day becoming a big league slugger. It was yet another dream Thome -- who retired as the all-time leader in walk-off homers -- was able to live out in his two decades in the Majors.

Cleveland entered the bottom of the ninth against Detroit trailing by two runs, but three consecutive singles punctuated by a run-scoring line drive by Matt Lawton brought the deficit to one. With one out and the bases juiced, Thome sent a long fly ball to center field to end the game in walk-off fashion. After Thome was greeted with a dogpile at home plate, he was called back out of the dugout prior to heading to the clubhouse for a curtain call.

5. The 52-homer season

Only two players in Cleveland history have recorded a 50-homer season. Albert Belle set the mark first in 1995, clubbing 50 bombs in arguably an MVP-worthy season. A number that hadn't been reached in nearly a century of the team's history was bested just seven years later by Thome. Aside from once again leading the American League in walks (122), he also sat atop the league's leader board in in slugging percentage (.677) and OPS (1.122) with a whopping 52 homers. The record still stands as the most in a single season in franchise history.

6. ALCS magic
Oct. 15, 1995

A young Thome was able to display his best bat flip (or in this case, more of a bat flick) after a clutch two-run homer put his team ahead of the Mariners in Game 5 of the 1995 ALCS in the sixth inning. Cleveland had fallen behind, 2-1, before Thome's blast to the second deck at Jacobs Field caused the crowd to erupt. A clutch swing that proved Thome belonged in such pivotal moments, as Cleveland was looking to take the lead in the series that had been tied 2-2 entering the night. After securing the victory thanks to Thome's efforts, Cleveland went on to win the ALCS in Game 6.

7. Cleveland's all-time home run leader
May 29, 2001

Even before his 52-homer season, Thome was making history. In his 11th season with Cleveland in 2001, Thome wasted no time racking up homers, recording his 10th before the end of May. But this was no ordinary game-tying leadoff blast in the fourth inning of an early regular-season game; this one was more special. As Thome trotted around the bases, he became the club's all-time home run leader with 243, passing Belle. Before his time with Cleveland came to an end, he was able to rack up 94 more long balls, including 39 more in '01, 52 in '02 and three in his reunion with the team in 2011.

8. First World Series homer
Oct. 26, 1995

Every run scored in the World Series is essential, but Cleveland may not have realized just how much it would need Thome's eighth-inning solo shot that extended its Game 1 lead to three runs entering the ninth. But with two outs in the final frame, Ryan Klesko of the Braves launched a two-run homer off Jose Mesa to cut their deficit to one. Mesa was able to rebound and catch Mark Lemke looking to end the game, making Thome's blast in the eighth the deciding run in Cleveland's victory.

9. The dramatic return
Aug. 27, 2011

Not everything can play out like a Hollywood script, but Thome came close in 2011. The slugger was traded back to Cleveland from Minnesota in August for just $20,000. His first game back with the team that drafted him in the 13th round in 1989 resulted in an anticlimactic 0-for-4 night. But Game 2 gave Cleveland fans a taste of what they were able to experience for 12 straight seasons over a decade prior when he launched a solo homer in the sixth inning in front of 35,370 fans at Progressive Field.

10. The clinch
Sept. 8, 1995

For once, we aren't focusing on Thome's bat and this wasn't a difficult play in the field. But Thome will forever be attached to one of the biggest moments in Cleveland's history. A simple catch of a pop up at third base one step into foul territory for Thome lifted a 41-year burden off the club's shoulders as the team secured its place in the playoffs for the first time in over four decades.