November 25, 2005 was a cold Friday in Chicago, and quite a notable one at that. Nearly one month after the 88-year White Sox World Series drought was snapped, a significant trade brought a pitcher’s worst nightmare into the South Side lineup. The Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies finalized a deal that sent Aaron Rowand, Daniel Haigwood, and Gio Gonzalez to Philly for their first baseman, Jim Thome and cash considerations. With Frank Thomas aging and hitting free agency, the White Sox needed to fill the void left at designated hitter. While Thome was not getting any younger himself and coming off some injuries, he provided a significant power threat in the heart of the lineup. And that threat lasted in Chicago from 2006-2009 in what was just one of the many chapters of Thome’s illustrious 22-year career.
On Wednesday night, Jim Thome received the greatest of honors. He was announced as a member of the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman. The four players will officially be elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY on Sunday, July 29th at 1:30 p.m. In honor of this big news, here’s a look back at the four years Jim Thome spent wearing the black and white.
In his first month with the club, Thome got off to a very hot start, hitting ten home runs and breaking Frank Thomas’ club record for most homers in the month of April. And it didn’t end there! By the time the 2006 season came to an end, Thome finished with a .288 batting average, 42 home runs, and 109 runs batted in. This turned out to be his best season on the South Side, stat-wise, as his numbers started to drop off slightly afterwards. However, despite old age starting to catch up with him, Jim provided Sox fans with many great memories that the fan base will not soon forget.
On September 16, 2007, Jim Thome accomplished a very impressive feat in one of the most dramatic ways possible. The DH came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, sitting on 499 career home runs. The White Sox were tied at 7 with the Los Angeles Angels, who brought in righty reliever Dustin Moseley. Let’s just say, this at-bat came to a wild end when a ball thrown down the middle was hammered to the left-centerfield bleachers. As described by Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, “Number 500 for Jim Thome. A game-winner here in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Sox win it 9-7. You’re awesome big man!” It was an amazing moment for all White Sox fans to experience live in person, on television, and on the radio as Thome was carried off the field by his teammates.
Perhaps Thome’s finest moment in a White Sox uniform came on September 30, 2008 in the notorious “Blackout Game.” After 6 innings of a pitchers duel between Nick Blackburn and John Danks, the big man came up to lead-off the bottom of the seventh. On a 2-2 pitch, Thome unleased an absolute rocket to centerfield to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. The crowd exploded and John Danks continued to deliver the performance of a lifetime: 8 shutout innings and only two hits allowed. This paved the way for big, bad Bobby Jenks dropping the hammer in the ninth and a White Sox AL Central division championship.
In July 2009, Thome’s final season with the White Sox, he had a monster game against the Baltimore Orioles. During the bottom of the 5th inning, the lefty launched a ball to right field for a three-run homer. In case that wasn’t enough, the slugger topped it off with a grand slam the next inning, bringing his RBI total to seven. The White Sox went on to win 12-8 in the offensive battle.
The 2009 season marked Thome’s last on the South Side as a player. On August 31, 2009, the White Sox traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with cash considerations for minor league infielder Justin Fuller. His contributions on and off the field made his stint a very memorable one for all Sox fans.
Luckily, this did not mark the end of the Hall of Famer’s time in the organization. In 2013, Thome returned as a special assistant to the GM. In addition to this, he has become a great mentor for many of the younger guys throughout the farm system. If you want to talk about learning from the best, it’s hard to find someone better than Jim. There is no doubt that he was one of the greatest power hitters of all-time and now he is receiving the honor he rightfully deserves. While he might not be wearing a White Sox hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, the South Side knows that Jim Thome is a good guy who will always wear black. Congratulations, Jim!