COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — To know what the moment meant to Jim Thome, all you had to do was look into his tear-filled eyes.
“It’s hard to explain the emotions that go through you,” Thome said Tuesday as he gazed around the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Plaque Gallery, the most hallowed corner of the shrine and where he’ll take his place in July. “How do you ever dream of this happening, walking through and having all those great players stare at you?”
Thome got the call in January when he was elected along with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. Also to be inducted July 29 are Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were selected in December by a veterans committee.
At 6 feet 4 and 250 pounds, the left-handed-hitting Thome was a pure slugger with the sweetest of swings. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round in 1989 out of Illinois Central College, he hit 612 homers, eighth all time, and drove in 1,699 runs in a 22-year career with six teams. Thome, who hit 17 homers in the postseason, also had 13 walk-off home runs, still the major league standard.
There have been just more than 19,000 men to appear in a major league game, and the Hall of Fame has just 323 elected members, including 226 players. Of those, 128 have been voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and only 54, including Thome, were picked in their first year of eligibility.
“How do you ever envision that?” Thome said. “As you’re playing, you don’t play to make it to the Hall of Fame. You play to win. You play to do well, to be a guy that helps your club win. Then this career happens and you look back, and then to have somebody say that you’re one of 54. There’s something special about it. You hold your chest out a little more.”
In his long career, Thome reached the World Series twice, in 1995 and 1997. The Indians lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games in the first one and were two outs from a title in the second before the Florida Marlins rallied in the bottom of the ninth and won Game 7 in 11 innings.
“Looking back, I think the championship always motivated me to every year prepare, but this is such a special thing, too,” Thome said.
The tour, which helps inductees prepare for their big day, takes them through every corner of the Hall of Fame — to the basement where most get to swing a bat Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig once wielded, to the library upstairs with its vast collection of newspaper clippings and photos — culminating in the Plaque Gallery.
There were too many plaques to read on this day, but Thome took his time and stopped at several — Ruth, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and others — as his wife, Andrea, captured the moment.
The emotion was palpable after Erik Strohl of the Hall of Fame mentioned off the cuff that among American League sluggers, only Ruth had reached 500 homers faster than Thome.
“It’s a dream,” Thome said as he hugged his host, tears welling in his eyes. “To come through here and soon to be on the wall with them, it’s beyond special. You don’t ever envision an opportunity to walk down this hall and have all this staring at you. I just feel honored.”
Kris Bryant joins ex-Chicago Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez in mashing debut homer
The now San Francisco Giant hit a two-out solo shot in the third inning of a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros. Two days earlier, Rizzo crushed a 449-foot solo home run in his New York Yankees debut while Baez mashed a two-run dinger in his first game with the New York Mets the following day.
The former Cubs became the first trio of ex-teammates in the Modern Era to start the season on the same team, and then homer in their respective debuts with a new team later that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Acquired in a trade with the Cubs for two minor league prospects just minutes before Friday’s deadline, Bryant was greeted by chants of “KB, KB, KB” when he trotted onto the field for pregame warmups and received a standing ovation before his first at-bat.
The four-time All-Star was cheered again after striking out swinging. Those cheers got louder after Bryant crushed an 0-1 pitch from Luis Garcia (7-6) into the left field stands for his 19th home run this season.
“It’s nice to really feel welcome,” Bryant said before the game. “Barry Bonds was my favorite player. I still have the autograph that my mom went and bought at the mall. Now I’m here. It’s kind of weird.”
It wasn’t a perfect debut for Bryant, who started at third base. His throwing error on Martin Maldonado‘s grounder down the line in the fifth gave the Astros a runner in scoring position with no outs. Logan Webb retired the next three batters to work out of the jam.
“It’s a bat that really lengthens our group and makes our bench better,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said of Bryant. “It makes it more difficult to get through the top of our lineup. He’s going to be good for us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Alex Cora encouraged as Chris Sale, Kyle Schwarber move steps closer to joining Boston Red Sox
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will make a fifth minor league rehab start later this week for Triple-A Worcester as he moves closer to pitching in the majors for the first time since Aug. 13, 2019.
Sale had Tommy John surgery in March 2020.
“We’ll re-address the situation after that but he’s getting close,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Sunday night’s game at Tampa Bay. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
Cora said Sale “felt great” one day after allowing one run over five innings Saturday for Worcester.
The Red Sox had lost four of five entering Sunday, including the first two games of a three-game series with Tampa Bay, that dropped them a half-game behind the AL East-leading Rays.
There is also encouraging news about recently acquired slugger Kyle Schwarber, who is currently out with a hamstring injury. He will take part in an off-day workout Monday in Detroit.
Schwarber will continue doing defensive work at first base where the team hopes he will be able to play at the unfamiliar position. He is nearing a rehab assignment.
“We’ll sit down on Tuesday or Wednesday and see where we’re at,” Cora said. “As far as the progress of the injury, we’re excited. The progress has been great. We’re hoping he goes on a rehab assignment sooner rather than later.”
Boston got Schwarber from Washington for a minor league pitcher last Thursday. He last played on July 2.
Utilityman Marwin Gonzalez (right hamstring strain) will also join the team for Monday’s workout and could be back Tuesday night when the Red Sox open a three-game series with the Tigers.
Right-hander Matt Andriese (right hamstring tendinitis) had a live batting practice session.
Reliever Brandon Workman, designated for assignment last Thursday, was outrighted off the major league roster and elected to become a free agent.
New York Mets put infielder Luis Guillorme on IL with hamstring injury
NEW YORK — The Mets placed infielder Luis Guillorme on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain on Sunday, a day after he scored the tying run as a pinch-runner in a comeback victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The 26-year-old Guillorme is batting .293 in 56 games this season. He missed six weeks earlier this year with a right oblique strain, returning on June 11.
The Mets recalled right-hander Geoff Hartlieb from Triple-A Syracuse. He has made one appearance for New York this season after being selected off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 9.
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