Welcome Back, #25
Citizens Bank Park will turn into Goosebump City the first time Jim Thome is introduced on opening day next April. Book it. He received the same treatment when he made his Phillies debut at Veterans Stadium in 2003.
The signing of Jim as a free agent after the 2002 season brought baseball back to life in Philadelphia. The press conference then was held in what we called the Preview Center across the street where Citizens Bank Park was being constructed. The Preview Center featured a model of the Phillies new home, a sample of the suites and offices for the sales staff. Leaving the Preview Center, Jim saw some construction workers. He stopped the car, got out and chatted with the workers. A classic moment.
There’s a lot to remember about Jim. First of all, he’s a genuine person, one of the most pleasant I’ve ever met. Dale Murphy is in the same class.
When planning the closing of the Vet, I came up with the idea of having Schmidt take one last home run trot around the bases with Harry Kalas making his classic home run call. After Schmidt crossed home plate, Jim met him. Mike raised Jim’s left hand in the air, sort of saying the torch is being passed. Another classic moment.
He led the league with 47 homers in that last Vet season. He followed up with 42 in the inaugural season for Citizens Bank Park. Injuries limited him to 59 games in 2005, hitting seven homers. So, two-plus seasons produced 96 homers. He was traded and replaced by Ryan Howard, who continued the big power numbers.
Yet another Thome classic moment came on June 14, 2004, when he hit his 400th home run at Citizens Bank Park. We placed a bronze plaque where the historic home run landed. He became the third player to hit his 400th home run in Philadelphia, joining the Yankees Babe Ruth at Shibe Park in 1927 and the Braves Hank Aaron at the Vet in 1966.
Since that historic homer, Jim’s added 204 more and passed 17 greats on the all-time home run list. He’s now eighth on the all-time home run list. He as a chance to move into seventh, currently held by Sammy Sosa (609). A-Rod is sixth, 629.
Looking for a left-handed power bat off the bench, Ruben didn’t mess around and quickly brought Jim back. Jim and his family cherished their moments in Philadelphia. That plus his yearning for a World Series ring brought him back.
Welcome back, #25.