Jim Thome intends to return for 2012
CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome tied The Bambino on Monday.
Now, he wants to get a little closer to Babe Ruth's home run total, too.
The 41-year-old slugger became the first ballplayer to address the City Club of Cleveland since Ruth did so on July 17, 1925, and said he still has the passion to play.
Whether or not that is with the Indians or another team will be determined after impending free agents become eligible to start negotiations five days after the end of the World Series.
I'll keep playing. I just need teams to call me. I can't go play in the backyard by myself.” -- Jim Thome, eighth all-time
with 604 homers
"I'll keep playing," said Thome, eighth on the all-time list with 604 career homers. "I just need teams to call me. I can't go play in the backyard by myself. I don't know the demand for a 41-year-old DH, but my passion is I want to continue to play."
Thome said his desire to capture an elusive World Series title is more important to him than setting individual records. He came close with the Indians in 1995 and 1997 before moving on to four other teams in his quest -- which brought him back to Cleveland.
He was honored to speak at the club, which has featured guest speakers from all walks of life for 99 years.
"To be honest, I didn't even know this existed," Thome said. "But it is a very special and humbling experience."
Thome spoke from a stage that previously featured names like Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali.
"Any time you get names like Babe Ruth," he said, "it is very, very cool."
Thome said he's enjoyed watching the World Series and marveled at the Game 3 performance of St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols. He drove in six runs with five hits including three home runs.
"He's a great player, so special," Thome said. "He's one of the best hitters in our era."
That timeframe includes Thome, who hit his first homer for Cleveland in 1991, set a team single-season record of 52 in 2002, and extended his franchise mark after being reacquired from Minnesota on Aug. 25.
"That move caught me off guard and it was really a dream," Thome said.
Cleveland fell out of contention, but Thome said the young Indians seem primed for success. He would like to be a part of it, but will weigh all offers and decide upon his future this winter.
"In a year or two, this team can do some very special things," Thome said. "They have put the groundwork in, done things the right way."
Just in case, Thome is making plans for life after playing. He would like to stay in the game in some capacity.
"The game has given me a lot and I could give a lot back," he said. "There is going to be a next journey. I don't know what it is, but it will be exciting."
Thome enjoyed serving as a mentor to players in September and got a special kick out of a hot streak by journeyman Shelley Duncan, who had six homers and 21 RBIs in September.
"Shelley was one who asked a lot of questions and I tried to help," Thome said. "I was talking with (hitting coach) Bruce Fields and we agreed that Shelley can be a monster. He has done a lot to improve and it was really special to see what he did."
Thome said a lot of Cleveland fans have encouraged him to re-sign, but he understands it is not entirely his decision.
"Everybody says you can play forever," he said. "At age 41, you know you can't. I have to admit I am enjoying getting up every morning and being with my family right now. We'll see what's going to happen.
"It is a process that will align itself."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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