Thome family shares in joy of No. 500
About 25 on hand to see slugger hit historic home run
CHICAGO -- As Chuck Thome started to talk about his youngest child's 500th career home run in front of the Chicago media at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday evening, his voice began to crack.
Tears then welled up in the eyes of Jim Thome's father.
"This is going to be hard, guys. I'll tell you," said Chuck Thome, breaking from a response concerning his son's historic accomplishment. "I've been broken up ever since the ball went over the fence."
Chuck Thome described himself as "living the dream," following Jim Thome's connection off of Dustin Moseley in the ninth inning of Sunday's 9-7 White Sox victory over the Angels. And while he was an accomplished softball player during his time, Chuck's dream really has been achieved vicariously through his son.
It was a dream fulfilled for the entire Thome family, which numbered somewhere around 25 in attendance for the series and homestand finale. It's a lifelong baseball fantasy that begins for every father and son on some local baseball field, as part of a youth team probably being sponsored by some local business.
"To have your son do that, from the Little League up, everyone here has a son playing Little League and wants to be in the big leagues," Chuck Thome said. "I'm able to live the dream. He added a lot to the dream.
"I'm so happy he could do it for the people. They have been so great. All this week, standing ovations every time. I was afraid he thought he was letting them down."
The one person missing from Sunday's Thome family celebration was Joyce Thome, the affable slugger's mother and possibly his biggest fan. She attended every home opener of her son's illustrious career before losing her battle with lung cancer at the age of 68 in 2005.
While Joyce Thome was not present in Chicago, her presence permeated the ballpark and throughout the postgame festivities. Before Thome stepped to the plate for the first time Sunday against the Angels' Joe Saunders, he wrote something in the dirt with his bat behind home-plate umpire Mike Reilly to keep his beloved mother as part of the pursuit of 500.
"It's very emotional," Jim Thome said when asked about his mother's influence on his life. "She's been a part of this and I know my family is proud, as well. I know she was there today. It was pretty cool."
"She did a great job of raising him. She did it all," added Chuck Thome, getting emotional during the press conference when Jim mentioned his mother. "He's pretty special, he really is."
Just as hitting No. 500 won't be the last home run for Thome, this momentous clout also won't be his last great event of 2007. Jim and his wife, Andrea, are expecting their first son and second child in December.
Their son will be able to watch quite a bit of tape in regard to his dad's vast accomplishments, not to mention read the deserved praise heaped upon his broad shoulders. But according to Andrea, the new baby made his presence felt during Sunday's historic event.
"He was there and he was jumping the whole game," Andrea said with a smile. "He either wanted out or he wanted Jim to do something good. We'll take the second."
Lila Thome could not attend Sunday afternoon's White Sox contest due to a little cold picked up by the 4-year-old. She has been keeping late hours over the past few days, watching her adoring dad pursue his milestone.
Father and daughter were able to connect via cell phone, though, after Thome completed his interview session. Lila told her dad that she had a special snack in honor of the 500th home run she watched on television, with Andrea mentioning the treat as bananas with cinnamon.
Andrea, Chuck and Thome's two brothers and two sisters had a chance to exchange on-field hugs with Jim after he crossed home plate. Through tears of joy and a slightly choked up voice of her own, Andrea said she simply told her husband how proud and happy she was for him.
In reality, home run No. 500 belonged to Thome, but a piece of the event also was shared by his entire support system. Strangely enough, it was this very support system getting nervous as each at-bat passed without Thome connecting, not the Hall-of-Fame bound slugger himself.
Now, the Thome family can revel in Jim's greatness and avoid a road trip to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
"He's been amazing and everyone else has just been a wreck," Andrea said. "I've eaten like a whole bottle of Tums. He's been so relaxed and so loose. There's a saying he loves to say which is, 'Don't think. It only hurts the ballclub.' I said it to him today and he said, 'You stay in your lane. I'm fine.' He was. He was right."
"I knew he was going to do it, but now the weight is off his shoulders," Chuck Thome added. "It just couldn't have been better today. I was so glad he didn't have to wait until Kansas City to do it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.