Nice guys finish first - and hit 600 home runs

One of the really nice guys in Philly sports marked a milestone last night.

Jim Thome, whose signing back in 2003 marked the start of the Phillies move away from their “small market” pedigree to one of baseball’s power players, hit home run No. 600.

Actually he hit both home runs No. 599 and 600.

Only seven other Major League sluggers are members of the 600 Club. Several of them, including Sammy Sosa, have serious questions linked to their gaudy stats, a residual effect of baseball’s steroid era.

No such doubt ever circled around Thome. Just how impressive are Thome’s numbers? Exactly one hitter got to the 600 level faster than Thome did. Maybe you’ve heard of him. His name is Babe Ruth.

Thome hit No. 600 in at-bat No. 8,137; Ruth his his in at-bat No. 6,921.

It was the signing of Thome back in 2003 that recharged interest in a Phillies franchise that had been dead for years. It was part of the impetus that soon gained traction with the move to Citizens Bank Park. In fact, Thome hit the first homer ever struck in The Bank during an exhibition game against his former team, the Cleveland Indians, on April 3, 2004. He also homered at Veterans Stadium, launching 28 dingers into what no doubt were largely empty sections of the decrepit bowl during its final season.

The rest is history.

Thome played just two and a half seasons for the Phils. Hit 96 home runs during that span, including what was then No. 400.

When he finally hangs them up, Thome deserves a spot in Cooperstown. But more than that, he deserves a night at Citizens Bank Park, the place he helped build.

As much as anything, Citizens Bank Park is the enduring symbol of the magical turnaround of the Phillies franchise.

But before the franchise started routinely selling out game after game after game, there was Jim Thome.

Nice guys do finish first. They also hit 600 home runs.

Philly has not forgotten you, Mr. Thome.


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