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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The 600 home run club: now with eight members

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Sports

On Aug. 15 Jim Thome joined the 600 home run club. In consecutive at bats Thome hit home runs 599 and 600 against Rick Porcello and Daniel Schlereth of the Detroit Tigers during an American League Central match up at Comerica Park in Detroit. Thome became just the eighth player in Major League history to accomplish the feat of hitting 600 home runs; fifth if you exclude known steroid users.

Unlike Alex Rodriguez, the last player to accomplish this feat, Thome hardly received any media attention. While Rodriguez had his own section and daily update on ESPN as he approached the milestone, Jim Thome barely even got a mention on his quest for 600 home runs. This summer focused instead on Derek Jeter becoming the 28th player to achieve 3,000 hits. This discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that Rodriguez played for the New York Yankees in the largest media market in the country, while Thome quietly hit his home runs in Minneapolis, a smaller market.

The discrepancy, however, does a great disservice to the fine game of baseball.

Nearly every baseball fan knows of the steroid use of Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez personally admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 during his time with the Texas Rangers. Furthermore, while they remain just allegations, there are strong indications that Rodriguez continued his steroid use beyond those years. This greatly reduces the significance of his 600 home runs as he hit 156 of his home runs, almost 25 percent of his total, during the time he has admitted he was on steroids.

In contrast, there has never been a single allegation or rumor that Jim Thome took anything other than milk to artificially inflate his performance on the field. Thome has the fifth-lowest at-bat/home run ratio in major league history at 13.68. This ratio is only eclipsed by Mark McGwire (10.61), Babe Ruth (11.76), Ryan Howard (12.16) and Barry Bonds (12.90), with McGwire and Bonds both known steroid users. Furthermore, Thome achieved the feat of 600 home runs in the second fewest number of at bats behind only the legendary Babe Ruth.

In his 20-year major league career, Thome has always played the game the right way. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a former teammate or player that has anything bad to say about the man. After spending his first 11 professional seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Thome bounced around the league for the next 10 years playing for the Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers and Twins, before returning to Cleveland after the Indians claimed him off of waivers on Aug. 25.

Only eight players have hit 600 home runs in major-league history—three of them, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez, are tainted by steroids.

Every person is entitled to his or her own opinion but to diminish Thome’s accomplishment with subpar media coverage and attention does a great dishonor to the game. He may not be a flashy player, but he is a man with great integrity and honor—the kind of player that baseball sorely lacks and needs. Thome deserved more attention and coverage for his remarkable feat. Hopefully he will one day garner the attention that a first-ballot Hall of Famer deserves.