Thomas launches No. 500 at Metrodome
Blue Jays slugger hits three-run shot vs. Silva in first frame
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten percent of Frank Thomas' career home runs have come against the Twins, so it should have been no surprise when the 39-year-old Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter connected for career home run No. 500 off Twins pitcher Carlos Silva in the Jays' 8-5 loss to the Twins on Thursday.
It was a journey that began where it ended. Thomas hit his first home run in the same place, and against the same team, that he hit his 500th home run. When Thomas hit his first career home run off Twins lefty Gary Wayne, who would've known he would be back at the Metrodome 498 homers later looking for 500?
As Thomas rounded the bases after his career-defining blast, he said he was feeling a combination of satisfaction and relief.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "A big smile came to my face. This was a big goal and a big dream."
Thomas has 50 career home runs against the Twins (more than any other team) and has 16 career home runs at the Metrodome.
While some may think 500 homers isn't a big deal in a time when Barry Bonds is chasing Hank Aaron's career home run record, Thomas begs to differ.
"It means a lot to me because I did it the right way. I could care less what others have done," he said.
Thomas became the 21st member of the 500 Home Run Club in front of a crowd of more than 38,000 when he hit a 1-2 Silva pitch over the left-field wall in the top of the first inning. The three-run blast was measured at 396 feet and put the Blue Jays ahead of the Twins by a score of 4-0. The Jays slugger eventually accounted for four of the team's five runs in the loss.
Thomas said that when he looks at the other players in the 500 Home Run Club, he feels honored to be among them.
"That's an unbelievable class of talent."
It was looking like Thomas wasn't going to hit No. 500 on the road trip against the Twins. In his first at-bat of the series Monday night, Thomas drove a ball to deep center, but Twins center fielder Torii Hunter made a leaping catch before running into the wall. Thomas didn't come close again until he faced Silva three days later. He admitted that he was "overswinging," but on Thursday he went back to the philosophy of just getting a hit at the plate.
Thomas' milestone home runs
|Aug. 28, 1990: Thomas homers to left off Twins pitcher Gary Wayne in Minnesota for first career home run.|
|Aug. 31, 1993: Thomas connects for career home run No. 100 off pitcher Sterling Hitchcock at Yankee Stadium.|
|June 9, 1996: Home run No. 200 comes off Orioles pitcher Jimmy Haynes on the road in Baltimore.|
|Aug. 7, 1999: Thomas launches No. 300 in Oakland off right-hander Kevin Appier.|
|July 25, 2003: The 400 Home Run Club is achieved after Thomas hits a home run off Tampa Bay pitcher Jorge Sosa at Tropicana Field.|
|June 28, 2007: Thomas hits No. 500 off Twins pitcher Carlos Silva at the Metrodome.|
"That's when home runs happen, when you don't try to do too much," he said.
Thomas has had many individual achievements through the years with the White Sox, A's and currently the Blue Jays. Not only was Thomas a back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and '94, but he is also the career leader in home runs for a designated hitter with 248.
For the next half of the season, Thomas will concentrate on moving up on the list of all-time home run leaders. With good production, Thomas could surpass Eddie Murray (504), Mel Ott (511), Eddie Mathews (512) and Ernie Banks (512) by season's end. There is no indication that Thomas is ready to quit the game any time soon.
"Now that I'm healthy, I would love to get to 600," he said.
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez figures to be the next member of the 500 Home Run Club. Rodriguez has 492 homers entering the Yankees' game with the Orioles on Thursday night. The most recent player to hit 500 homers before Thomas was Ken Griffey Jr., who did it in 2004.
Among the thousands of fans at the Metrodome to witness Thomas' 500th career home run were his wife and three children. It was a good thing he hit his home run early in the game, otherwise they might not have seen it.
"They had a flight at 1:45 p.m," Thomas said. "My daughter said to hit it early. I'm glad I got it done."
The entire Thomas family was in Minneapolis for all four games of the series with the Twins. When Thomas returned to home plate after his historic blast, he gave a wave up to his family.
It was a day to celebrate for Thomas, but it didn't look that way in the ninth inning of the loss to the Twins. Shortly after Thomas was called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Mark Wegner, he was ejected from the game after he barked at Wegner from the Jays dugout.
Manager John Gibbons was also ejected after he stormed out of the dugout to have words with Wegner after he ejected Thomas.
"The moment got the best of me," Thomas later admitted.
Joe Kieser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.