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Columnist
Thome's a Twin now but a class act forever
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Columnist

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome always had time to talks to children about the game of baseball, such as this appearance at the White Sox Player Camp in Lisle.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and designated hitter Jim Thome share a moment after beating Baltimore in a game at U.S. Cellular Field.

 

John Starks | Staff Photographer

Jim Thome and Matt Thornton celbrate after defeating the Minnesota Twins in a Central Division tiebreaker game.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Jim Thome watches his home run to deep centerfield against the Minnesota Twins on July 25, 2006. This week the Twins signed Thome to play DH for them.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Chicago White Sox's Gordon Beckham, left, celebrates with Jim Thome after hitting the game-winning RBI single against the Cubs during the ninth inning on June 27, 2009. The White Sox won 8-7.

 

Associated Press

DeWayne Wise and Jim Thome celebrate after beating the Minnesota Twins in a Central Division tiebreaker game.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Another win, another pat on the back from Jim Thome for Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Tadahito Iguchi congratulates Jim Thome after another Thome home run.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen hugs Jim Thome after beating the Tampa Bay Rays at US Cellular Field.

 

Rick West | Staff Photo

Mark Buehrle gets a hug from Jim Thome after the White Sox beat the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Sox teammate went wild after Jim Thome hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 15th against the Los Angeles Angels.

 

Daniel White | Staff Photographer

Former White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome is now a member of the Minnesota Twins as he continues his quest toward 600 home runs.

 

Daily Herald file photo

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Published: 1/27/2010 12:36 PM

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Let's not shed too many tears for Jim Thome.

A day after manager Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox decided to go in a different direction at designated hitter, Thome exited the unemployment line and signed with the Minnesota Twins.

He gets to play for another strong team and another quality manager in Ron Gardenhire. Oh yeah, Thome gets to continue his march toward 600 career home runs.

It could have been worse for the classy slugger. He could have ended up like Frank Thomas, who sat by the phone waiting for work last off-season and never got a call.

Yes, Thome is class act, so let's do the same and wish Thome luck with his new team.

But before we let him go, let's take you behind the scenes for a few examples of why Thome is considered one of baseball's all-time good guys.

• Before leaving the Cleveland Indians after 12 standout seasons and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, Thome invited the three beat writers covering the club to his home in suburban Cleveland.

They were separate visits, and Thome thanked each writer for his support and friendship. (Note: He did NOT steal the idea from Tribe teammate Albert Belle).

• In 2006, his first season with the White Sox, a bunch of players and writers were at the hotel bar in St. Petersburg, Fla., after a game against Tampa Bay.

Apparently anxious to burn through his per diem, backup catcher Chris Widger kept ordering shots that tasted like equal parts gasoline and formaldehyde.

I was talking with Thome while the drinks kept coming and rather than telling Widger to stop the flow, Thome nodded thanks and discreetly dumped the shots into the bar drain when his teammate wasn't looking.

• In 2008, Thome's back kept acting up and White Sox conditioning coach Allen Thomas put in long hours helping him keep it stretched out.

As a way of saying thanks, Thome wanted to buy Thomas a new suit that cost - well, let's just say you couldn't get it at Kohl's.

Born and raised in the tiny town of Morganton, N.C., Thomas scoffed at the expensive prices at the store and suggested they check out a discount outlet.

"We went there," Thomas said, "and he got me two suits."

Thome was only with the White Sox for four seasons, but he left his mark on and off the field.

He's especially proud of the "Bring Me Home" campaign he heads with his wife Andrea, along with Paul Konerko and his wife Jennifer. The charity raises money and awareness for foster children and families in Illinois.

• Let's close with a personal experience.

Not long after he hit his 500th career home run (on Sept. 16, 2007 at U.S. Cellular Field), Thome signed photos of the historic achievement for every White Sox employee. Every single one.

He also signed copies of the photo for the four beat writers covering the club.

On the day they arrived in the press box, the Trib's Mark Gonzalez got his. So did the Sun-Times' Joe Cowley and whitesox.com's Scott Merkin.

Me? Nothing.

Wow, I remember thinking, I must not rate with Sir Jim.

I soon found out that after Jim signed my photo, he accidentally bent it while putting it into the envelope.

So instead of giving me a flawed keepsake, Thome waited for a new batch of photos, signed another one and got it to me a few days later without saying a word.

Thanks again, Jim. Keep on swinging with the Twins and good luck in your chase for 600 homers.

And how about saving it for Sept. 16 of this season, when the Twins wrap up a three-game series vs. the Sox at the Cell?