Daily Herald
Thome's a Twin now but a class act forever
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 1/27/2010 12:36 PM

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?