PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies always knew they had a great one in Jim Thome, but it turns out they had one of the greatest ever.The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday evening that Thome will be part of its 2018 Hall of Fame class. He received votes on 89.8
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies always knew they had a great one in Jim Thome, but it turns out they had one of the greatest ever.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday evening that Thome will be part of its 2018 Hall of Fame class. He received votes on 89.8 percent of ballots cast in his first year of eligibility. Players need to appear on 75 percent of the ballots for induction.
"How about the 'Thome-nator?'" former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said when he picked up the phone Wednesday night.
Manuel could not have been happier. A lot of people with Phillies connections felt the same way.
Thome sparked a baseball renaissance in Philadelphia 15 years ago. He ignited that rebirth because he had Hall of Fame talent and chose to play in a city that had not enjoyed postseason success since 1993.
Of course, the way Thome tells the story, Philadelphia helped him as much as he helped the city.
No wonder folks call him "Gentleman Jim."
"Philadelphia made an impact on me," Thome said in a conference call with reporters. "When I went there I only knew one thing and that was Cleveland. I love Philadelphia. To this day it's something that I embrace."
Thome spent just a fraction of his storied 22-year career in Philadelphia, playing with the Phillies from 2003-05 and briefly again in 2012. But despite the fact he is better remembered with the Indians, with whom he spent the majority of his career, there is no question Phillies fans will make the trek to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see him inducted in July.
Thome signed a six-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies in December 2002, when nobody wanted to come to Philadelphia to play baseball and when the Phillies were trying to build excitement as they moved from Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park.
He made the Phillies legit. He made baseball in the city fun for the first time in a long time.
"Jim's signing was a transformative moment for our organization," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said.
"When he came over, [Scott] Rolen had just left and they were building the new ballpark," Manuel said. "It was a new era. The fact they got Jim Thome, they knew they got a big player. But I think who Jimmy is and where he came from was big. I remember the construction workers there [at the ballpark] looking at him like he was one of them."
Thome led the National League with 47 home runs in 2003 as the Phillies fell just short of the NL Wild Card. He finished fourth in NL MVP Award voting that season. He then hit 42 homers in 2004, making the NL All-Star team.
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"The fans treated me so great there," Thome said. "I truly, truly loved every moment. The fans motivated me. The fans push you. They can be very tough, but as a player I've got to tell you that's what drove me to try to be better. The one thing I love about playing in Philadelphia is it's about going out every day and giving everything you've got and hustling to the degree that you're there every day in that moment. That's what I love most about Philly. The moment was intense every day and I loved it so much."
The Phillies traded Thome to the White Sox after the 2005 season, following the emergence of Ryan Howard as NL Rookie of the Year. Thome returned in 2012, only to be traded to the Orioles that same season.
"I'm extremely happy for Jim and his family," Howard said. "I'm proud I was able to call him a teammate and a mentor and even more proud to call him a friend."
Thome hit 101 of his 612 career homers with the Phillies, including the 400th of his career. But he also made an impact off the field. Ask anybody about Thome and they will say he is one of the nicest people they have ever met.
"Sharing the clubhouse with Jim not once, but twice, was an honor," Jimmy Rollins said. "His infectious smile, gentle nature, and the extra-large and tight hugs he'd give his friends because he was genuinely excited to see you were things I looked forward to every day. He made me strive to be a better player every day with the hope being he didn't feel like he had to do it all himself. I just wanted to be a part of his legacy, not for bragging rights but simply to know what it felt like to stand so close to greatness."