A round of applause is quietly - very quietly- going around those who love sports in America. Those who love baseball in particular had reason to celebrate on Monday night as veteran Jim Thome smacked the 600th home run of his career. As a bonus, lest we forget what we've been told should be the focus of sports in our era, Thome's Minnesota Twins even picked up a team victory against the Detroit Tigers - no powerhouses themselves, the Tigers certainly have the Twins in their rearview mirror. All in all, a great night for the Twins, Thome and the sport of baseball in general.
Thome has long been one of the game's graceful elders, beginning with a bang in his time with the Cleveland Indians before moving to the Philadelphia Phillies for a brief stint. From there Thome did time as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a the shortest of quick trips, finally ending up with the Twins. Along the way, he garnered a reputation as not only a true baseballer, a lover of the game, but as one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet, as one of the teammates you'd dream about having.
In the post-steroid era of baseball, where every single accomplishment has to be super-critically analyzed, Thome's purity stands as its own testament. (Although, it should and must be noted, its not a flawless purity.) There can be virtually no doubt that this feat will be run through the ringer, whether it's now or twenty years from now, when future sportswriters are debating whether to elect Thome to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hand in hand with those assurances of debate, however, is the knowledge that Thome will most assuredly get into hallowed company. The 600 home runs all but guarantees it, but if there's more proof needed, there are ample examples abounding.
In the era of doubt and self-incrimination, Thome stands head and shoulders above his peers in a classy way. You won't catch him in a poker scandal and it's already been established how far away from the Bondsian steroid suspicion he is. (Could all this backfire and he be proven guilty? Absolutely. Which is the ultimate shame of our time with the national pastime.) Thome is so universally liked that even those who overshadow him love to heap praise upon him.
So, at the end of the day, why isn't this a bigger deal? Thome just joined one of the most exclusive sports clubs: only seven players before him have hit 600 home runs. Is it a pure reaction to the steroid era? Is this a validation of those who claim that Major League Baseball only celebrates those who play in major markets, those who are marketable in a major way? Regardless of what people may think, Thome deserves respect as one of the greatest to play the game. Ever.