Jim Thome takes his place in history with 600th home run
DETROIT — The ball was in safe hands.
As the Minnesota Twins finished off their 9-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night, Landon Thome held one of the most precious baseballs his father ever hit.
Jim Thome had done it, swatting the 600th home run of his career in the seventh inning. The ball landed in the Tigers bullpen behind the left-field fence, and later Landon gripped the piece of baseball history with his little hands.
“It’s an unbelievable night, obviously,” Thome said. “It’s something you never dream of doing. You dream about it, but when it finally happens it’s kind of surreal.”
He is the eighth player in major league history to hit 600 career home runs. Thome joins an elite group that includes Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Thome is the first player since Rodriguez to join the 600 club. Rodriguez did it on Aug. 4 of last year.
Thome began Monday’s game with 598 career homers. No. 599 happened in the sixth inning off Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, a 412-foot blast to left-center. Thome was back at the plate in the seventh, this time facing left-hander Daniel Schlereth.
With Trevor Plouffe on third and Justin Morneau on first, Thome took a fastball low, a curveball low and inside and another curve for a strike. He pointed his bat toward center field — like he’s done thousands of times during his career — brought it back and waited.
Schlereth came in with another breaking ball, this one up and over the plate. Thome unleashed his violent swing and sent a high drive to left, high enough to make Harmon Killebrew proud.
Left fielder Delmon Young — who had been traded by the Twins to the Tigers earlier in the day — scrambled back toward the fence before running out of room and getting an up-close look at history as the ball landed in the bullpen.
Thome pumped his right fist as he touched first base. Twins players threw their arms in the air and spilled out of the dugout. After a moment to absorb the fact that their team had just given up a three-run homer, the Comerica Park crowd, announced at 36,211, rose to its feet and cheered.
Thome, 40, is the oldest player to swat his 600th home run. Sammy Sosa was 38 years and 220 days old when he hit No. 600. Thome has benefited from being a designated hitter for most of his career, but there’s still a level of durability needed to maintain strength and be a great home run hitter for so long. Back problems later in his career have forced him to closely monitor his health.
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