Can you think of a quieter march to a major sports milestone?
There was no HBO special, no incessant popping of flashbulbs when Jim Thome hit his 600th home run, joining one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.
With two home runs in Minnesota’s 9-6 victory over Detroit on Monday, Thome became only the eighth player to hit 600. Home run No. 600, off Detroit’s Daniel Schlereth, puts him in the same company as Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays (whose “welcome to the club” video was shown on the Twins’ broadcast), Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa.
It’s extremely heady company, in spite of the black eye the era of performance-enhancing drugs has given pursuit of baseball’s home-run records. Thome has never been implicated and is the oldest player to reach 60. He wasn’t even sure it was possible, with injuries bothering him this season. As he rounded the bases, “I thought of my [deceased] mother [Joyce],” Thome said afterward and acknowledged the pressure he felt. “She must have been looking down on us and being there with us. And just that it's over, the journey, the buildup and the hype. To get it over with is a sigh of relief. You work so hard, fought some injures all year long and you envision [if] it is ever going to happen.
“You don't know. At 40 years old, approaching 41, you don't know.”