Praise for Jim Thome

Updated: August 9, 2011, 9:26 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Jim Thome signed with the Minnesota Twins before the 2010 season, and shortly after his deal was announced, the phone of Twins general manager Bill Smith rang.

"I got a call from someone with Philadelphia, telling me what a great guy we were getting -- a good person," Smith recalled. "And then I got calls from the White Sox. And the Dodgers, even though he hadn't been there a long time. And from Cleveland. They'd all say the same thing, about what a good guy he is."

After Thome arrived in spring training, he pulled Smith aside and mentioned to him that if the general manager ever thought it would be useful for Thome to talk to a young player in the organization, he'd be happy to do that."

Thome will soon hit the 600th homer of his career, and he will someday be inducted into the Hall of Fame. But he already is part of an elite circle of ballplayers that includes Brooks Robinson, Dale Murphy, Harmon Killebrew, CC Sabathia, Adrian Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson. They're players deeply admired for who they are, as people.

I asked some folks who have dealt with Thome off the field to send along their memories of the longtime slugger.