Peoria’s own Jim Thome, who started playing baseball in the West Peoria Little League, is now officially in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The power-hitting lefty is best known for hitting the long ball, driving out 612 home runs to place him in the top ten all-time on the career home run list…and doing it without a hint of steroid or PED usage in an era when it was rampant.
Thome’s MLB career was spent mostly with the Cleveland Indians (below’s a clip of him talking about his time with the Tribe), and his Indians won two American League championships, only to lose in the World Series twice in the 90’s. I had the pleasure of mingling in the Indians locker room back then as a sports radio guy in Toledo. And I knew one of Thome’s teammates, relief pitcher, Paul Assenmacher, who’s from my hometown and allowed me to see behind the curtain of those mighty, beefed-up teams.
While many of you reading this knew Jim growing up or at Limestone High or at ICC, I never met him ’til the late 90’s when he visited The Morning Mix set to promote his Children’s Hospital of Illinois fundraising event at the Civic Center. I did, however, get to know his wife, Andrea, during my Toledo days when she was just starting out as a weekend TV sportscaster. We’re both Detroit natives, and she was dating a friend of mine who worked there as a TV sports guy. It’s a small world after all.
Jim received word of this momentous honor about a half year ago.
Yesterday was an emotional day from the start for Jim, who watched as his high school-aged daughter, Lila, sang The National Anthem prior to the ceremonies.
His 612 career home runs and MLB-record 13 game-winning, walk-off HR’s will be what he’s remembered for on the field, but his character and integrity off it are also all star caliber. Watch his entire acceptance speech from yesterday’s induction ceremony at Cooperstown below.