The long wait is finally over.
Former Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He will be officially inducted on July 29 in Cooperstown, New York.
Thome was on 89.8 % of the ballots and will be inducted alongside Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman as members of the 2018 Class.
He joins Bob Feller as the only Indians in franchise history to be voted in on the first ballot.
In an era where he overshadowed by guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Thome put up the numbers in a way that was clean and pure that was only overshadowed in that aspect by Ken Griffey Jr.
Thome played 22 seasons in the major leagues with Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Baltimore, and of course the Cleveland Indians where he spent 12 seasons with the club.
With a career batting average of .276, 612 home runs (8th all-time), 1,699 runs batted in (26th all-time) and a slugging percentage of .554 (23rd all-time), Thome is one of the greatest power hitters of all-time.
He was a five time All-Star (1997-1999, 2004, 2006), a Silver Slugger Award winner (1996), AL Comeback Player of the Year (2006) and the Roberto Clemente Award (2002) which recognizes a player that shows the most sportsmanship and kindness.
A 13th round pick out of Illinois Central College in the 1989 MLB Draft, Thome defied odds and was in the major leagues by late 1991 and became a staple in the Indians lineup for the next decade.
Thome spent 1991 to 2002 with the Indians and then made a brief return at the end of the 2011 season after being acquired from the Minnesota Twins.
He was apart of some of the greatest lineups in franchise history and one of the greatest lineups ever with the 1995 team that went 100-44 and made a World Series appearance.
Thome hit 337 home runs as a member of the Cleveland Indians which is the most in franchise history and he is a member of the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame and also has a statue that stands outside of Progressive Field close to where he hit a 511 foot home run during the 1999 season.
Of course there is some bad blood still that sits with fans after Thome left following the 2002 season for Philadelphia after they offered more money. It followed the exact moves that Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez made when they left as free agents.
Thome was a fan favorite and was even voted at one point the most popular athlete in Cleveland sports history because of how he treated fans both on and off the field and fans felt like he stabbed them in the heart but I think his return in 2011 along with his Hall of Fame speech in Cleveland three years ago mended some fences.
As dominant as a player Thome was on the field, he was as nice of a person off the field. Numerous players have talked about how much of a nice guy he was. In 2007, he tied for second friendliest player in the major leagues.
On a personal note, I’m so excited that Thome is being recognized with this honor of going into the Hall of Fame. He was and still is my all-time favorite Cleveland Indians player.
Growing up, he was the first baseball player that caught my eye with his batting stance and how he stuck that bat out towards the opposing pitcher and then when he knocked the ball out of the park consistently, that’s why kids love the game of baseball.
It did hurt me as an Indians fan when he left but much like when Lebron left for Miami in 2010, I continued to follow Thome throughout his major league career and when he came back at the end of the 2011 season, it was great to be able to see Thome in an Indians uniform one more time before he retired.
Now as I am 25 year old man, it’s great once again to see #25 be enshrined as a Hall of Famer. Congratulations Jim.