CLEVELAND — His red socks pulled high to his knees, Jim Thome pointed his bat outward in his well-known stance before taking a swing and one last trip around the bases in a ballpark where his number is now on permanent display.
On Saturday, the Cleveland Indians retired Thome’s No. 25 honoring the Hall of Fame slugger during an emotional pregame ceremony before hosting the Baltimore Orioles — another of the six teams he played for from 1991 to 2012.
The festivities were capped with Thome, the major league walk-off home run leader (13), taking that final trot around the bases with his son, Landon, before being mobbed by his former teammates at home plate.
His jersey number will be permanently displayed in the upper deck of Progressive Field between fellow Hall of Famers Bob Lemon’s 21 and Larry Doby’s 14, and just above where many of his 337 homers landed while becoming Cleveland’s career home run leader.
“To have my jersey retired gives me the chills,” Thome said. “To see my number hanging in the rafters in the company of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Jackie Robinson, Mel Harder, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Bob Lemon and Frank Robinson, I don’t really know what to say. That’s some ‘Field of Dreams’ stuff right there.”
Along with Landon, Thome was joined by his wife Andrea, daughter Lila and father Chuck. His former teammates and managers were on hand too, including Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Charlie Manuel and Mike Hargrove.
“To this day, these guys are my brothers and I’m so touched that you all would take the time to come today,” Thome said.
Players from both teams were in the dugout for the pregame ceremony, with Indians players wearing high socks mimicking Thome’s distinct look.
Before his retired number was unveiled, the team also presented Thome with two original Jacobs Field seats representing the two jersey numbers — 6 and 25 — that he wore as a member of the club, as well as a massive, 25-shaped photograph mosaic featuring pictures of the slugger throughout his career.
The Hall of Famer already has a statue on the Progressive Field concourse that was unveiled during the 2014 season. That same summer, Thome’s number was unofficially retired when Jason Giambi surprised him by giving it up after Thome signed a one-day contract to retire with the team. No other player has worn the number since.
It’s been a summer of celebrations for Thome, who was enshrined in Cooperstown last month. He was honored last week by the Chicago White Sox and will be honored by the Minnesota Twins next Saturday.
Through 22 MLB seasons, Thome batted .276 and hit 612 home runs, putting him eighth on the all-time home run list. But his 13 years in Cleveland were when Thome had some of his best moments and memories.
Thome broke in with the Indians as a third baseman in 1991. He was part of a young group of talented players who helped the Indians end a 41-year playoff drought and make the World Series in 1995 and 1997.
Along with leading the club in home runs, Thome is also the club’s career leader in walks (1,008) and is second in career RBIs (937). His powerful swing helped the club rise from perennial laughingstock to one of baseball’s best teams in the 1990s.
“The 90s were exciting times in baseball, and there was no place better than the corner of Ontario and Carnegie,” Thome said. “This organization from top to bottom is first class all the way. I was so proud to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Cleveland Indians.”