CLEVELAND — Three weeks ago, Jim Thome stood before more than 50,000 baseball fans in Cooperstown, New York as he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, Thome stood before a sellout crowd at Progressive Field as the Cleveland Indians honored him by retiring his number.
Thome praised the Indians organization during a speech prior to Saturday’s game, thanking several members of the front office and his former teammates.
“To have my jersey retired gives me the chills,” Thome said. “To see my number hanging in the rafters in the company of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Jackie Robinson, Al Harder, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Bob Lemon and Frank Robinson, I don’t really know what to say. That’s some Field of Dreams stuff right there.”
There were plenty of clues ahead of Saturday’s pregame ceremony indicating that No. 25 would become a part of history.
A tarp was draped over one of the standing room only boxes above the right field foul pole, nestled between Hall of Famer Bob Lemon and Larry Doby’s numbers.
On Saturday, the sheet was removed, revealing the name Thome and No. 25.
Thome’s former teammates who were also in attendance unveiled a giant No. 25 depicting images throughout Thome’s career, a gift meant for Thome’s lodge in his hometown Peoria, Illinois. Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar and former managers Mike Hargrove and Charlie Manuel unveiled the giant number while Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga unveiled a pair of Jacob’s Field seats donning the numbers six and 25 to represent the numbers Thome wore as an Indian.
The Indians also gave away free Thome jerseys as part of Saturday’s promotional giveaway, meaning No. 25 filled the stands as a nod to 90s nostalgia.
Thome, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last month, joins Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Mel Harder, Bob Feller, Frank Robinson and Bob Lemon among the list of Indians’ retired numbers.
“I was so proud to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Cleveland Indians,” Thome said, igniting a round of cheers and applause from nostalgic fans.
Thome was the Indians’ 13th round pick of the 1989 draft, making his major league debut in September 1991, though injuries the following year kept him in the minor leagues before his career at the plate excelled.
Thome remained in Cleveland for 12 seasons, which included three straight All-Star nods from 1997-99. Though he departed for Philadelphia in 2003, he eventually returned to Cleveland at age 40 for the 2011 season.
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