On his bobblehead day, Thome joins 500 club
There’s no way that just happened.
It couldn’t have.
It was just too perfect.
On the day of his bobblehead doll giveaway? OK, possibly.
During the last game of a 10-day homestand and before a weeklong road trip? Sure, why not.
After a six-run comeback? Not beyond the realm of reason, but unlikely.
But for Jim Thome to come up on his own bobblehead day — after the White Sox had erased a 7-1 deficit — and hit a walkoff shot as his 500th career homer?
Nah. No one’s buying it. Too corny.
Except, somehow, some way, that’s exactly what happened Sunday in the Sox’s 9-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels in front of 29,010 shocked fans.
“I would never have imagined doing that as a walkoff,” said Thome, who became the first player in baseball history to hit a walkoff for his 500th homer. “It’s like a movie script. It really is.”
The Sox were behind 7-1 after the Angels scored four in the seventh, but they responded with four of their own in the bottom of the frame and two more in the eighth to make it 7-all going into ninth.
Darin Erstad started the bottom of the ninth with a single. After working the count to 3-and-2 against Dustin Moseley, Thome battled the growing shadows and roped a fastball toward left-center field.
Thome took two or three steps before raising his right fist into the air in celebration. While the ball soared and then landed an estimated 426 feet away from home, Thome pumped his fist while circling the bases.
As he rounded third, the DH threw his helmet toward the Sox dugout and jumped on home plate, officially becoming the 23rd member of the 500 home run club.
He was, of course, immediately mobbed by teammates.
“All those things considered, and then a walkoff on top of it and the comeback?” Paul Konerko said. “I think everyone is really happy because we won the game, but it is also even more storybook for Jim.”
After the mosh pit at home plate broke up, Thome hugged his pregnant wife, Andrea, his father, Chuck, and a few more of the “20 to 25”-member entourage who came up from his hometown of Peoria to follow the pursuit of 500.
Jermaine Dye and Bobby Jenks then picked up Thome, put him on their shoulders and paraded him around as the crowd cheered.
“I believe in destiny. ... If somebody deserves to have something like this, it’s Jim Thome,” said manager Ozzie Guillen, who added he was more excited than when the Sox won the World Series in 2005. “On the field, off the field, he’s a great man.
“I don’t see anybody looking for something real nice to happen and be so calm, never change any of his at-bats, the approach at the plate the same way he always do. Good things happen to good people, and you’ve got it right there.”
Until that long ball, Thome had been 0-for-11 for the series and 2-for-12 since Wednesday, when he hit No. 499. He had said he desperately wanted to hit the historic homer at U.S. Cellular Field, and thanks to the way things played out, he did.
“As it kept going on, I tried to tell myself, ‘Relax, relax, just let it happen, let it happen,’ ” Thome said. “In that situation, especially tied, you’re looking for a ball to drive. I was having a really hard time seeing with the shadows. I really was.
“He threw me a changeup, threw me some pretty good fastballs ... it’s amazing. It really is. It’s hard to imagine doing that in that situation.”
Just to add a little more emotion to the drama, Thome had used the knob of his bat to write something on the dirt behind home plate before his first at-bat. He choked up recalling it afterward.
“That was for my mother (Joyce, who died of lung cancer on Jan. 5, 2005). I wanted her to be a part of it,” Thome said. “It’s very emotional. She’s been a part of this, and I know my family is proud as well. I know she was there today. It was pretty cool.”
To say the least.
“I honestly thought he thought he was letting the people down by not doing it,” Chuck Thome said.
“I played a little baseball and softball, and to have your son do that, from the Little League up ... everyone here has a son playing Little League and wants to be in the big leagues. I’m able to live the dream. He added a lot to the dream.”