Thome, Contreras = Pure Class

With the late-arriving news of Jim Thome’s trade to the Dodgers on Monday night, I was reminded of a moment involving the White Sox designated hitter from about two years ago. It’s a story I’ve told over and over again because it really defines the nature of one of the game’s most prodigious sluggers. And his ability on the field was surpassed by the great individual he was off the field.

It was a random three-game series at U.S. Cellular against some team I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing near the back of the clubhouse, where the media often gathers just to the left of where Thome’s locker was located, and having him walking by and stopping to say hi and chat with a handful of media members before going off for batting practice.

Two days later, on the morning before a day game, I was standing in the same spot, when Thome one again walked back toward his locker. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder as sort of a pat on the back and said:

“It’s good to see you.”

Thome was just that sort of guy. He was such a good person, so upbeat and good-natured, that you often wondered if he really was that good of a person, that upbeat and that good-natured. Once you met Thome for about two minutes, the answer was a resounding ‘Yes.’

I had a chance to get to know Thome a little bit beyond baseball. I went to a Target in Chicago last offseason, when Jim, and his wife Andrea, every bit as nice and altruistic as her husband, were buying winter coats for kids through their charitable involvement with Children Home + Aid of Illinois, a program they got into in conjunction with Paul and Jennifer Konerko. I remember talking with Thome about the Hot Stove rumors, and he was as interested in the offseason maneuvers as if he was covering a team.

There also were a couple of opportunities for me to attend the Joyce Thome Benefit dinner in honor of Jim’s late mother, benefitting Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. It was amazing to watch Thome treat everyone in attendance, and I mean everyone, like family members. It’s understandable why he is the favorite son of Peoria.

Actually, the move by the White Sox to send Thome to Los Angeles really is doing a favor for one of the game’s true good guys. The only spot left open on his Hall of Fame resume is winning a World Series title, and as a pinch-hitter or possibly spot starter at first base, he should be a valuable asset to the Dodgers. He also has been reunited with one-time Cleveland teammate Manny Ramirez, and there would be nothing more fitting than a championship and 600 home runs to close out Thome’s career.

In order to finish this trade, Thome had to waive his no-trade clause. He probably understood that the White Sox weren’t going to win a title in 2009 and that he probably wasn’t part of their plans for 2010 and beyond. With Tyler Flowers coming up Tuesday, don’t be surprised if the rookie catcher of the future gets his fair share of chances to serve as designated hitter over the final 30 games.

As for pitcher Jose Contreras, he was every bit as solid of a person as Thome. The quick comeback he made from a ruptured left Achilles suffered last August was nothing short of miraculous, and while he struggled mightily of late, people shouldn’t forget what he meant to the organization. There is no World Series title without Contreras.

If the White Sox don’t pick up the pace considerably in the next month, more good guys and one-time key contributors will be playing at new addresses next season.

12 Comments

Scott,

Thanks for the excellent write-up. I agree wholeheartedly. The timing is probably right for these moves, but we are losing two great veterans in Jim and Jose that may be past their prime on the field, but still provided so much great veteran leadership off it.

And despite Jose’s struggles since the second half of 2006, he’ll always be the great pitcher from 2005 to me. Hopefully now that each start is no longer a reminder of how far his skills have fallen, we can remember with more clarity what he meant to bringing a World Series title to Chicago.

I echoed many of your sentiments over at MSF this morning, and appreciated reading your post. Thanks for the great anecdotes about Thome. I wish both of them well with their new teams.

http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2009/09/white-sox-trade-jim-thome-dodgers-jose-contreras-rockies-justin-fuller-brandon-hynick/

I’m going to miss Thome and Contreras, but more because of their past performances and off-field characters than what they’ve done as of late. Even then, it’s hard to say goodbye to two of the greatest Sox players of this era. I feel bad for Thome, who came to Chicago to win a World Series and went to the playoffs once in four years. He’s also one of the nicest and coolest people in the game, as evidenced by your great story. Contreras is one of the most important pitchers in team history, even though he’s been struggling for the past three years. While all his hard times frustrated me, I always had hope in the back of my mind that he would return to form, but even when it didn’t happen he never made excuses. These are two great guys leaving the organization. And you’re right. They are pure class.

I remember Thome with Cleveland.. always hammering a pitch low and away dead center field. I was in awe of this man’s immense power.

I remember Hawk Harrelson commenting Thome having hit 430 homeruns, seemingly all against White Sox pitching.

I proudly remember Thome wearing #25 with the White Sox. Thank you Jim. You are an awesome ballplayer and an awesome man.

#25 was my first White Sox Jersey and I am a 32 year old Man. Such class and sportsmanship is hard to find these days. Big Jim you will be missed.

Jose was a piece of something special to all of us. And as he moves on, so must we all. 2005 was 4 years ago and we have a need to press on.

I think second place for the sox would be the worst spot. We may sit here and try again next year with a core that probably just does not work anymore. We have an opportunity to seize the day now with the #15s #17s #51s and Tyler Flowers (who knows what number). Lets add #44 to to the 2010 rotation.

Point here … Jim and Jose built something which is now evolving. So raise your glass to evolution and the new White Sox empire.

Hey,Kenny if it was for JIm Thome we would of not got to the playoffs last year,If it was not for Jose,We would of won the World Series in 2005,How soon we forgot one of the most class of all players in the history of MLB,JIm Thome and maybe it was time for Jose to move on,I guess this is another White Flag Move by Kenny,giving up 6 games back and 35 or so games left,Going in 2010 we have a lot of hoes to fill for Example: RF,SS,IB DH,Need bullpen help,1-2 more starters,Back up catcher?Is Pauli or Jermaine going to be back? How about AJ how many more years does he have on his contract I love the SOX,but Kenny you have a lot of work to do,If you but a half *** team out the fans will not show up.Good Luck,White Sox Nation is depending on you,CJR life-long Sox fan.

Scott, thanks for the excellent story. I am upset w/ myself that I didn’t get a chance to meet him while he was here. I love him as a player and I see that he is a wonderful, genuine human being. A memory I will cherish forever was his 500th HR / walk-off winner. A random game I happened to attend by myself, and he does that … was something I will remember the rest of my life. It’s too bad he won’t be an everyday player in LA, but to me he was a big foundation for our Sox organization. It was a thrill to watch him play for my favorite team for 3+ years. Good luck Jim!! ” YOU ARE AWESOME … BIG MAN! ”

I have to stop myself of criticizing Contreras. He was a big reason the SOX got off to a slow start, but not he alone. It’s almost now that they’re out of it (sort of) — that I forgive Jose for being so awful. Especially now that HE GONE! I now ask myself, ” what were Colorado thinking?? ” giving up a future top pitching prospect, for him? But – Jose was great for the SOX. He was fun to watch and you just knew for a calendar year, that he wasn’t going to lose! (and he didn’t). Good luck in that hitters ballpark Jose. The Sox move on! GO SOX!

I agree Jim will be missed on the South side of Chicago. I only hope that when Jim Thome enters the MLB Hall of Fame, and we all know he will, that he is wearing a White Sox cap. True, he played more years with the Indians, but can any of you remember the kind of bush league reception that Jim Thome received from the Clevland fans the first time he batted wearing a White Sox uniform? I’m sure he remembers. If he should ever play for another team there is no dought in my mind that he would receive a well deserved standing ovation from all the White Sox fans. I sure hope he gets to read this. Thsnks Jim, you will be missed here. Ross.

Jim Thome was all class and Kenny Williams has given up on this team and on Ozzie. I feel the next trade we need to make is getting rid of Kenny Williams.

I dont know why Kenny Williams would trade Jim Thome it is just another stupid move by Williams. So many bad moves.The Worst bad move is when he traded Jon Garland , And I hope the Sox Stink every year without him.The Sox would of never have won the World Series without Jon Garland and he just gave him away . Jon Could get another World Series with the Dodgers and I hope he dose . Thome was to good for the White Sox.

all i have 2 say ,is bone headed move kenny.you deserve 2 be outested off the soxs. why would someone give away future hall of fame 4 nothing. way 2 go kenny. u bone head.

hey kenny who next,paul,aj,or beckam.kenny mines as well u just screwed up a great line up. you jackass!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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