Monday, September 05, 2011

Jim Thome hits 600th Home Run

DETROIT (AP) -- Jim Thome's back was aching, his toe was throbbing and his quad was cramping, turning his pursuit of 600 home runs into a painful endeavor that made him wonder if he would even reach the milestone before season's end.

On Monday night, Thome finally harnessed the power again in that pure left-handed swing of his, sending two home runs sailing over the fence at spacious Comerica Park. When No. 600 disappeared over left fielder Delmon Young's head in the seventh inning, Thome raised his right fist while rounding first base.

His quiet chase, which seemed to vanish from baseball's consciousness as injuries slowed him down, was finally complete.

"You dream about it but when it finally happens it's kind of surreal," Thome said. "It's a neat thing, it really is."

The 40-year-old Thome became the eighth player to reach 600, hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning for No. 599, then a three-run shot in the seventh. The milestone came on a 2-1 pitch from Daniel Schlereth.

Only seven hitters have hit more home runs than the burley Thome: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. Rodriguez joined the 600-homer club last August.

"Welcome to the club," Mays said in a video shown on the Twins' television broadcast.

Unlike Bonds, Rodriguez and Sosa, Thome has eluded suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. His country-strong physique was never chiseled like some of the hulking sluggers who proliferated his generation.

Thome is the oldest person to hit his 600th homer. Sosa previously held that mark at 38 years, 220 days. He reached the milestone in 2007.

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The Minnesota Twins said they decided to trade Jim Thome, their designated hitter, to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later.

The Thursday trade reunites Thome with the team he broke in with and hit 334 home runs for over 12 seasons.

"It's a bittersweet deal," Twins General Manager Bill Smith told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "but there's no question that this is the right thing to do for Jim Thome.

"He is all the superlative things we knew we were getting two years ago when he came here. At this point in his Hall of Fame career, this is the right thing for him."

As he heads back to Cleveland, Thome has 601 career homers, eighth on the all-time list.

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