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Mid-stroke in my shaving routine, I heard the dulcet tones of the wife. They sang, “I don’t know why they’re not making a bigger deal about Jim Toam.”
The way this works is: Each morning, I shave in the bathroom while the wife reads the Roanoke Times in the living room. Every so often, she’ll throw a comment or question my way.
This one, however, stumped me. “Who is Jim Toam?” asked I, in rhetorical reply, scraping back over those tough spots on the puss.
“He’s the guy that just hit his 600th home run,” said the wife, with a tone that implied, “Hey, you’re the supposed sports expert in this house.”
“Oh, Jim Tow-may!” I said.
(Of course, all references to Jim Thome, to this point have been put in the way in which they sounded phonetically. From here on out, we’ll just go with Jim Thome.)
Now, the wife is a pretty sharp lady when it comes to sports, particularly baseball. For instance, she can name all four 20-game winning pitchers from the Baltimore Orioles’ 1971 World Series team. She can also name the Golden Glove infield of that team.
She is well-versed in baseball nuances, such as the hit-and-run and throwing behind a runner.
She has adopted my beloved Cubs, a burden (still another!) of being wed to me.
Yet, the wife did not know much about this Jim Thome fellow, and I think that speaks volumes about him. In a good way.
It also makes her question all the more pertinent. Why, in fact, was there no big deal about Jim Thome’s 600th major league tater?
You see, we all hear about Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano; Manny Ramirez and John Rocker. In other words, the miscreants, no matter their talent level, are elevated into the national consciousness.
The good guys, such as Thome, sail under our collective radar.
Quickly, who has hit more home runs, Thome or Mark McGwire?
Answer: Thome, by quite a margin.
Who do you know more about? McGwire by quite a margin.
As I write this piece, A-Rod has hit a total of 25 more home runs over his career than has Thome. Yet, the Yankee third baseman overshadows the Twin designated hitter to degrees unmeasurable.
I guess it’s been this way throughout the history of sports. Sports writers feed the public scandal and controversy. The public lines up at the trough to feed on the tripe.
There is no juice in a story about a guy who belts 600 home runs, gives generously of his time and treasure to charity and keeps his nose clean. That’s a big snore.
Take a look at the list of top home run hitters. Now extract the ones who are either jerks or have besmirched baseball. Thome. who has won numerous “good guy” awards, is left in some fairly elite company.
There are precious few athletes in Thome’s class: Those who have endured many seasons, set marks that put them among the elite, and remained good guys while doing so.
Now you know a bit about Jim Thome and what he has done. So do I. So does the wife.