CLEVELAND -- Former Cleveland Indians infielder/designated hitter Jim Thome did not have to wait long for selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In the first year of eligibility, Thome was named on 89.8 percent of the ballots, which was well ahead of the required 75 percent for induction, and became the 13th member of the Indians’ organization to earn enshrinement when the results of the voting were announced on MLB Network Wednesday night.
“I’m so thankful for this great honor,” Thome said in a conference call following the announcement.
“This is a day I don’t think any player can ever imagine happening, and it’s just a great honor. I just can’t thank you enough. It’s a special day in all of our lives.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Indians great Jim Thome elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame
Unquestionably, Thome is fan of the game of baseball and has taken a genuine interest in the history of the sport, which is why he and his father, Chuck, once made the trip to Cooperstown, New York for a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now, when the Thomes return to Cooperstown, it will be to see Jim unveil a plaque commemorating his induction.
“I think the Hall of Fame is so magical,” Thome said. “If you’re a baseball fan and you truly understand it and want to understand it, I think that’s what the driving force was to take the 500 and 600 baseball to there because it’s where it should’ve been. It’s where it should be.
“You’ve got all these great artifacts. It’s the greatest place there is, and one day doesn’t do it justice. You need to spend two or three to fully understand all of the great things that are in that place. It is just so special.”
A 13th-round pick out of Illinois Central College who became a three-time American League All-Star, Thome belted 337 home runs and drew 1,008 walks with the Indians, both of which are franchise records. Additionally, Thome is second in Indians history with 937 RBI and third in on-base (.414), slugging (.592) and on-base-plus-slugging percentages (.980), as well as 10th with 263 doubles.
Thome led the American League in walks three times in his Indians career, and hit 20 or more home runs in each of his last nine full seasons with the Tribe (1994-2002), including a personal best, and team-record, 52 round-trippers in 2002.
During his 22-year MLB career, Thome collected 2,328 hits in 8,422 at-bats (.276 batting average) with 451 doubles, 26 triples and 612 home runs. Thome had 1,699 RBI, scored 1,583 runs, earned 1,747 bases on balls and drew 173 intentional walks.
Also, Thome had a .402 on-base, .554 slugging and .956 on-base-plus-slugging percentages over a career that spanned parts of three decades and included 2,543 games played.
Over 71 postseason games, Thome belted 17 home runs, had 37 RBI, scored 35 runs and drew 30 walks.
But long before Thome belted home runs in the World Series, the Peoria, Illinois, native developed a love for the game and credits his upbringing as part of the reason he was able to have success and eventually, find his way to the Hall of Fame.
“I think everything starts at your roots,” Thome said. “I think I was so fortunate and proud that I grew up where I did. Peoria was such a special place. The people there are so special and all the great coaches from Gary Trotter on down the line, all my high-school coaches, youth coaches, my dad, my brothers who motivated and pushed me.
“I love Peoria. It’s where it all started, and the message I would send would be that every Midwest kid could dream of a day like this, and I’m living it today.”