|A "welcome (T)home" in Cleveland on Friday.|
When Jim Thome's plaque goes up in the Hall of Fame, his image will bear a Cleveland Indians logo.
Not the Twins, the White Sox or Phillies. Thome made his mark in Cleveland. He holds that franchise's career records for home runs, walks and strikeouts and is second in RBIs —and remember, it's one of the American League's eight original teams, 111 years old, so it has some serious history.
But he has not been warmly greeted as a visiting player in Cleveland since leaving for free agent riches after the 2002 season. He had said they'd have to tear the Indians uniform off him for him to leave; all it took was silly money from the Phillies. Many Cleveland fans have not forgiven him for that.
From the Let's Go Tribe blog's piece after the Thome trade went through Thursday:
I've left the most ticklish issue for last: the psychological impact of Thome coming back nine years after leaving in acrimonious fashion on the Cleveland fanbase. Of course another Cleveland athlete has since managed to top Thome in acrimoniousness of a departure, but the events of November 2002 still remains a rather bitter chapter in Indians and Cleveland sports history. Usually at least once a season a columnist, normally from another market, remarks on how Indians fans should put aside their feelings of bitterness and cheer Thome. Of course, it's easy to say those things when you didn't have the emotional investment in him that Cleveland fans did, and feel the despair that came with that hero leaving like Cleveland fans felt. It's easy to tell someone else to forgive when you aren't emotionally involved. Yes, reason says that Thome made the correct financial decision for his family, and he made the decision that gave him a better shot of winning a ring. But we're fans, not philosophers.
So then he returned Friday in an Indians uniform. How was he greeted? Standing ovation.
Which is fitting and proper. Time wounds all heels, and heals all wounds. Big Jim was a big part of the best run the Indians have ever had. How he left doesn't change what he left behind.