World Series: Jim Thome throws out the first pitch for Game 7
CLEVELAND — Former Indians star Jim Thome threw out the first pitch for Game 7 Wednesday night, piling yet another layer of Peoria-area baseball heritage onto the stage of the 2016 World Series.
Thome, who grew up on the South Side of Peoria and played ball for Limestone High School and Illinois Central College, played for Cleveland the last two times they reached the Series, in 1995 and ‘97. He is the organization’s all-time leader in home runs, with 337.
Ben Zobrist of Eureka is one of the stars for the Cubs, and Zach McAllister of Chillicothe IVC is a relief pitcher for the Indians.
“It says a lot about our area, the quality of baseball and coaches and people around the Peoria area,” Thome said before executing his ceremonial duties. “It’s great to see those two compete against each other in the major leagues, but it’s even greater that they each have a chance to win a World Series.”
Winning the Series was one accomplishment that eluded Thome during a 22-year career that ended with him ranking seventh in baseball history with 612 home runs. He was a key player in the Indians’ resurgence in the 1990s, when they made the World Series for the first time since 1948. But they lost in ’95 to the Braves and in ’97 to the Marlins.
“Baseball is a weird game,” Thome said. “You never know when you’ll get back. That’s why you need to enjoy every moment. When we went in ‘97, I always thought I’d get another chance, but in my case it never happened.
“So I’d tell all the player involved to enjoy this and honor it.”
Thome retired after the 2012 season, and in 2014 the Indians commissioned and dedicated a statue of him. It is one of three that stand on the plaza outside the center-field entrance to Progressive Field. The other two are fireballing pitcher Bob Feller and Larry Doby, who was the first African-American to play in the American League. Both are in the baseball Hall of Fame, an honor for which Thome becomes ballot eligible after the 2017 season.
But that was far from Thome’s mind Wednesday.
“I’ve never thrown off the hill before,” he said of the pitcher’s mound. “I’m not a pitcher. I’m just gonna try to get it there.”
Introduced to a standing ovation, and wearing his old No. 25 Indians jersey over a club-logo golf shirt, Thome got it there. A quick, simple lob to the catcher.
“It was an honor,” Thome said.