Thome's 500th homer gives White Sox 9-7 victory over Angels
CHICAGO -- Jim Thome circled the bases and raised his arm in triumph. He'd finally hit his 500th home run and it was more than just a remarkable milestone. It had real meaning, even more than usual, because it won a game for the Chicago White Sox.
With style and a flair for the dramatic, Thome became the 23rd player in major league history to reach 500, hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-7 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Angels.
It was a homer for a lot of people: himself; his teammates past and present; his former managers and coaches, especially Charlie Manuel; and his family, including his dad and wife who sat near the plate cheering his every at-bat all weekend and for his mother, who died of cancer in 2005.
Thome even made a drawing in the dirt behind the plate as he came up the first time Sunday, a way of paying tribute to his late mother, Joyce.
"I wanted her to be a part of it. It's very emotional," Thome said.
"She did a great job of raising him," said his father, Chuck. "He's pretty special."
The way he joined the 500 club was certainly special. He drove a 3-2 pitch from reliever Dustin Moseley to left-center, ending an 0-for-11 slump, and was mobbed by his teammates at the plate and later hoisted on the shoulders of Jermaine Dye and Bobby Jenks. He also hugged family members, who came out from the stands to be part of the celebration.
It was the first time a player hit a game-ending homer for No. 500, and the first time three players reached the plateau in one season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez got there earlier this year.
Thome made it to the milestone in 6,809 at-bats, the fourth-fewest among members of the 500-homer club behind Mark McGwire (5,487), Babe Ruth (5,801) and Harmon Killebrew (6,671).
"Just can't believe it. I really can't," Thome said. "I would never have imagined doing that as a walk-off. Just amazing to see your teammates standing there. It's like a movie script."
He hit No. 499 last Wednesday and then finally connected in his fifth at-bat Sunday.
"As it kept going on I tried to tell myself, 'Relax, relax, just let it happen, let it happen.' In that situation, especially tied, you're looking for a ball to drive and I was having a really hard time seeing with the shadows," Thome said.
On a day when the White Sox handed out Thome bobbleheads as a promotion, the DH was 0-for-4 when he came to bat in the ninth. After Darin Erstad singled to start the inning, Thome delivered his 28th homer of the season off Moseley (4-3) as the White Sox completed a rally from a 7-1 deficit.
"There are 499 other guys who gave one up," Moseley said. "Somebody had to do it and I can handle it."
The ball was retrieved by 28-year-old Will Stewart of Austin, Texas, who was in town for an accounting convention and didn't know until he came to U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday morning that he had a chance to see baseball history.
Thome broke in with the Indians in 1991 and spent 12 seasons with Cleveland and three with the Phillies before coming to Chicago in a trade before last season. He acknowledged his teammates over the years, but had a special mention for Manuel, the current Phillies manager, who also managed in Cleveland and was Thome's early hitting instructor.
"Charlie has been like a father to me in the game and I know this is a big moment for him. I know he will cherish this as much as I have, because we've been through this grind together a long, long time," Thome said.
Thome's wife, Andrea, who is expecting their second child, said her husband was relatively calm, even with a contingent of about 25 family members and friends watching. If he hadn't connected Sunday, his next opportunity would have come in Kansas City.
"He's been amazing. Everyone else has been a wreck," she said. "He's been so relaxed and loose."
Thome couldn't put his achievement in perspective Sunday, at least not right away. He and his dad plan to deliver the ball together to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
"I really don't think it will sink in until I'm home this winter and you reflect on things," he said.
Danny Richar's two-run homer off Scot Shields in the bottom of the eighth tied the game at 7. Josh Fields had a three-run homer for the White Sox and Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera homered for the Angels off Chicago starter Mark Buehrle. Guerrero has at least 25 homers in 10 straight seasons.<
^Notes:@For returning the ball, Stewart got two White Sox season tickets for next season, the use of Thome's suite for a Cubs-White Sox game and some signed items by the slugger. Stewart donated the season tickets back to Thome's charity since he doesn't live in Chicago.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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