First baseman Jim Thome stands in at the plate in a 1997 Cleveland Indians game. The team signed Thome to a special contract this weekend so he could retire with the team that brought him to the big leagues.
Calling a halt to a career that put him at the No. 7 spot on the all-time home run list, Jim Thome officially retired as a Cleveland Indian Saturday. The imposing hitter signed a special one-day contract so he could retire in Cleveland, where he spent most of his 22 seasons in the big leagues.
A skilled and powerful batter who had been hoping to further his playing days before calling it quits, Thome, 43, was asked by The Cleveland Plain Dealer about the one-day contract – and if he had tried to get just one more trip to the plate out of it.
"I'm always ready for one more at-bat," he said.
Thome retired on the same day the Indians unveiled a statue in his honor at Progressive Field, a tribute that captures the deliberate bat-pointing stance that was part of his home-plate ritual. That pointing motion often generated a sense of dread among opposing teams and their fans, particularly in the 1990s, when Thome's power cemented the Indians as postseason contenders.
"It feels so good to be home again, in this ballpark, where it all began," an emotional Thome said Saturday, according to The Sporting News. "It gives me goose-bumps."
Thome finished his career with with 612 home runs, a .276 batting average and 1,699 runs batted in, playing at first and third base and as a designated hitter. He was named an All-Star five times, and he approached the game with old-school passion, wearing his socks pulled high and often playing with eye-black smeared on his cheeks.
In addition to Cleveland, Thome had stints with five other teams, including the Chicago White Sox, where he was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2006, and the Philadelphia Phillies, where he had an All-Star season in 2004.
As CBS Sports notes, "Thome ranks seventh in career home runs, 24th in RBI, 24th in slugging percentage , 37th in total bases, seventh in walks and 18th in OPS. He played in 17 different postseason series (10 different years), but never won that elusive World Series ring."