Born August 27, 1970 in Peoria, Illinois, James Howard Thome was an all state player in baseball and basketball at Limestone High School. He graduated in 1988, and was inducted into their hall of fame on September 25, 1993. He then went on to nearby Illinois Central College, where he continued to play both sports. In 1989 he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the June draft. Jim Thome made his Major League Baseball debut on September 4, 1991. He hit his first home run a month later allowing the Indians to come back and beat the New York Yankees. This would be the first of many home runs Thome was going to hit in his career.
In 1997, Thome switched over to the other side of the diamond when the Indians acquired third basemen Matt Williams. He has been playing first base ever since. Thome easily hit his 100th home run in this year on May 14th off of Texas Ranger Bobby Witt, and also surpassed Hal Trosky's club record set in 1936 for homers by a lefty. He became the first Indian to hit 40 home runs and draw over 100 walks, and was the first AL hitter to his 40+ HR, score 100+ runs, hit 100+ RBI and get walked 100 times since the Beantown great Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1970. Deservedly so, Jim Thome was voted to his first all star game this year as well. Originally sent as a back-up, Thome found himself starting when David Justice could not, due to a hyper-extended left elbow.
In 1998 was voted to start the all star game at first base, starting in his second straight midsummer's classic, yet is was the first time he was elected to the team, and not appointed by the manager. However, In August Jim would be hit by a Wilson Alvarez pitch in the beginning of the 7th inning. This pitch ended up breaking the fifth metacarpal in his right hand, causing him to miss 35 games. He was reactivated on September 16th and hit a home run in his first at bat back off of Minnesota's Bob Tewksbury.
In 1999, lead majors in walks and strikeouts, first player to do so since Mickey Mantle accomplished the feat in 1958. His strikeouts were also a club record, breaking the mark set by Cory Snyder of 166 set in 1987. On July 3, 1999 he hit the longest home run ever hit at a Cleveland stadium when he took a Don Wengert pitch and sent it flying 511 feet from the home plate at Jacobs Field. Jim served a 3 day suspension from May 5-7 for charging the mound during a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 23. He also surpassed Babe Ruth on the post-season home run list with his 16th.
On May 29, 2001 in a game against the Detroit Tigers, Thome became the Indians' all time home run leader surpassing the mark set by Albert Belle. He also surpassed his own record of 171 Strikeouts in a season with 185. Through 2001, Thome had about 50 more strikeouts than hits. Ouch. In 2002, Jim Thome has continued to hit the ball really far for the Cleveland Indians. He's currently one shy of Alex Rodriguez's current mark of 27 and had a streak of hitting a home run in 7 straight games, 2 more games and it would've been the longest streak in MLB history.
Jim Thome is an all around good guy. He has done work with the United Way and won the 2001 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for on-field performance and contributions to his community. He also has a habit of dressing up like Santa Claus come Christmas time and buying toys for sick children with his own money and handing them out at Hospitals in the Cleveland area. Also, Jim has a McDonald's sandwich named after him called the Thome Triple, which is three patties on a longer bun with cheese and other McDonald's condiments. Tasty, fattening, the reason Thome doesn't hit too many triples.
With the following offseason, the Cleveland Indians spent their time in a rebuilding process. Their more talented and expensive players were lost to free agency over the years. The end of the 2002 season brought a trade that sent ace pitcher, Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos, showing that The Tribe had given up on the season. Thome himself might have been traded, but he had a no-trade clause written into his contract. Jim lived in Aurora at the time, and felt at home in the Cleveland area. However, the Indians did not want to pay Thome what he felt he deserved, and barely did any bidding when Thome entered free agency.
While I fervently hoped that someway, somehow, Jim Thome would be wearing Red Sox for the 2003 season, this did not happen. After a light bidding war, Thome went to Philadelphia to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, who were now suddenly contenders in the NL East division. The Phillies made another move in the offseason, acquiring Kevin Millwood to help out their already potent starting pitching. Thome, however, would see his average fall, and his K's rise in his new league. Still, Thome launched 47 dingers, enough to beat out Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and lead the National League for the year.
Position: First Base