A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Indians first baseman Jim Thome appears in the May 28 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
Dan Patrick: Does Chuck Finley bring Tawny Kitaen around?
|Jim Thome celebrates a game-winning home run April 21 against the Tigers. Thome has hit 30 or more homers in five straight seasons (his career-best is 40).|
Jim Thome: No.
DP: I don't blame him. I wouldn't trust you guys, either.
JT: You wouldn't trust me?
DP: No. If I'm married to Tawny, I'm not going to bring her around you slugs. Especially not you, James Howard Thome. Anyone call you Howard?
JT: No, that was my mother's father, actually. But you can call me that.
DP: Well, I'm calling you Jim Thome with a Bomb.
JT: Exactly. Last spring training you made that up.
DP: Yep. Every time I'd have a highlight, you didn't hit a home run, and then you'd hit a home run and Stuart Scott or Rich Eisen would get the home-run call. So I never...
JT: Well, I'll tell you what. When are you on?
DP: Sunday -- could you hit a home run on Sunday?
JT: I can try.
DP: All right.
JT: I can try for you. If I hit one Sunday I'll be looking [for] "Jim Thome with the Bomb."
DP: What nicknames have you had over the years?
JT: Oh, man, I don't know. I haven't really paid much attention -- I mean, they call me the Thominator, for terminator ... what's Stuart Scott's thing?
DP: He just says overrated. Overrated white guy, I think.
JT: That's right.
DP: Now Berman needs to give you the nickname. Does he even have one for you?
JT: I don't know ... I'll have to ask him next time I see him.
DP: You haven't made it until Berman has given you a nickname.
JT: Well, we got to get on him then. If he doesn't, he'd better get it rocking.
DP: Were you upset with me for campaigning for Jason Giambi for the All-Star team last year?
JT: No. Heck, no.
DP: He had a pretty good year.
JT: Oh, he had a heck of a year.
DP: OK, I just didn't know, because I like you and...
JT: You know what? Hey, the guy won the MVP. By no means, no.
DP: Well, he couldn't have won the MVP without me, is what I'm trying to say.
JT: Well, there you go.
DP: I can help you this year if you need some help.
JT: Let's get her going -- get the campaign started.
DP: Are you pleased with your bobble-head doll?
JT: Yes. It's got the eye black, it's got the body that looks like Ray Lewis.
DP: Is that good?
JT: I guess -- I mean, it looks like a football player. Maybe I ought to just go and play football, huh?
DP: Well, you're a pretty good size. What position would you play?
JT: A slow white guy.
DP: You'd be a lineman.
DP: Or maybe the guy on the kickoffs who runs down and kind of sacrifices his body for the betterment of the team.
JT: Absolutely. I can do that.
DP: Did you play football?
JT: No, I did not. In high school I played hoop, and during football season I practiced basketball ... and obviously baseball was there.
DP: Who has your type of hoop game in the NBA?
JT: Let's see. I played hoop for one year in college [at Illinois Central Junior College]. I played both basketball and baseball and ... probably I weighed about 200 or 210, right in that area, so I would say -- oh, man. Let me think about that and I'll tell you.
DP: What did you learn about hitting watching Manny Ramirez the last four years?
JT: The great thing that Manny does is there's never any tension -- whether he's going good or bad, there's never any tension in his swing. He's very tension-free. He studies the game extremely, extremely hard. I mean, he works his butt off. I don't think people see that -- and obviously, he's got great ability. He can adjust to a lot of pitches. ... He just plays the game really relaxed, and when you're a hitter that's a big thing.
DP: Can he bat .400?
JT: I think he's got the ability to ... to me that's one of the toughest records to break because it hasn't been done in a long time.
DP: What do you think will happen next -- somebody bats .400 or somebody hits 70 home runs?
DP: So you thought you were getting easy questions?
JT: You know what? To me, honestly, I don't think I'll see either one in my time.
DP: I think we'll see it in our time. I think we'll see 70 home runs in our time.
JT: You think we will?
DP: Yes. Everybody's hitting home runs now. The pitching is still watered down. The pitching's not going to get better. I think we need to give the pitchers something back.
JT: What would you do. Let me ask you a question. If you could do one thing to the game...
DP: Jim, I'm asking the questions here.
JT: OK, go ahead.
DP: No, you can. If I can do one thing to the game?
JT: If you could do one thing to the game, what would you do?
DP: I would either give the hitters two strikes, or I would raise the mound.
JT: And what would the raising the mound do?
DP: It might give them a little bit more of an advantage. Maybe perception. Maybe they could pick up some more velocity. I just want to see the game played. I don't go to see 10-9.
DP: And if 10-9 happens, that's fine, but I don't go to see 10-9 -- and there's nothing wrong with 3-2.
DP: But we have too many 10-9 games and not enough 3-2 games; therefore, people think it's like in basketball. Hey, you can dunk, you can play. In baseball, you can hit a home run, you can play. And there are so many guys nowadays who are one-dimensional and I just don't know if it's good baseball. You agree?
JT: In some sense, yes.
DP: Because you can bat .230 and hit 50 home runs and be a star.
JT: Very true. I think average is really underrated in today's game. I mean, if a guy does hit .240 and he hits 45 homers, well, he had a heck of a year. ... A lot of guys are stronger today and in better condition -- the way players are taking care of themselves, and with all the new high-tech computers to get guys back from these injuries, all the high-tech stuff they have today -- it's just amazing, it's amazing. Even from when I first started, you know -- now a guy goes in and gets his knee scoped, he's back in two weeks.
DP: Yes, there's big money to be made.
DP: Everything is stat-driven.
DP: Look at Rickey Henderson. He's back just to get stats.
JT: I totally agree. ... What I would do to change baseball is, if you hit a home run foul they'd have to count it fair.
DP: How many home runs do you think you've hit foul in your career? It sounds like a lot if you want to change that rule.
JT: On a guess I would say maybe 10 to 20.
DP: I think you'd have a hard time getting that rule passed.
JT: I think we would, yes.
DP: Do you have a classic minor league moment?
JT: My classic minor-league moment was when I broke my hand and went down [to Double-A Akron for rehab] and the team was going to fly me back -- and I think we were, like, eight hours away. I don't even remember where we were. Maybe Harrisburg, and I told them I wanted to ride the bus to get back just to see what that was like again.
DP: So instead of taking care of your hand you wanted to be with the guys.
JT: No, see, we were coming back anyway. We were coming back, and instead of flying out the next morning I just told them I feel OK and I'll ride the bus -- because that's what it's all about, you know. Those times in the minor leagues when you had those bus trips and the camaraderie and stopping at Wendy's and it's late at night and you're riding on the bus back. I mean, that's something you'll never get again.
DP: What did you think of "Bull Durham?
JT: I loved it.
DP: Were there any Susan Sarandons in the minor leagues?
JT: No. Honestly, no. Not to my knowledge. I mean, not for me there wasn't. I'm sure there are, but you've got to go out and look for it.
DP: So if you look like Kevin Costner, then there may have been a Susan Sarandon.
JT: Probably, yes.
DP: What would you say is the kind of woman you attracted. More like a Rosie O'Donnell?
JT: What kind of a woman would I attract? I'd better say my wife now, but...
DP: I mean back then.
JT: Back then...
DP: You're a strapping guy. You're hitting bombs. You're Jim Thome, and Rosie O'Donnell's got her fingers in between the mesh fence waiting for you to come over and say hello to her.
JT: I would say Rosie, sure.
DP: A lot of woman there. Nothing wrong with that.
DP: I was going to say Oprah, but I don't think she's a big baseball fan.
JT: I don't know.
DP: You're giving it some thought, which is kind of scary.
JT: I don't really know. Rosie would be all right, sure.
DP: Nothing wrong with that. Hey, nothing wrong with that.
DP: The Team Thome towel, when exactly do we wave that at the game?
JT: When Thome hits a Bomb.
DP: Because I can go to the Web site, TeamThome.com, and get my Team Thome towel there.
DP: Are you a hunter or a fisherman?
DP: Dibble likes to tell me that he's thinning out the herd. That it's good to just start killing things.
JT: I don't call it killing -- I call it harvesting.
DP: Oh, that's right. That's what Dibble calls it. He's harvesting.
JT: He's harvesting a deer herd, absolutely.
DP: What word would the deer use? Massacre? Murder?
JT: They would probably say, "Uh-oh, the two-legged freaks are out again."
DP: See, wouldn't you like a little bit of competition? Give them a gun. Give them a bow and arrow. Just something. It would be fun, wouldn't it?
DP: I mean, you'd come back and your wife says, "Honey, what happened?" "Well, I got winged by a deer, but I got him. You know, I lost my arm but it's OK -- I got him." I think it's only fair.
JT: Oh, man -- this is why I enjoy talking to you so much.
DP: And, of course, why you won't talk to me again.
JT: No, no. Very untrue.
DP: Down time on the road, what are you doing?
|In 2000, Jim Thome played in a career-high 158 games, hitting 37 home runs with 106 RBI and a .269 average.|
JT: Probably talking to my buddies and my brothers.
DP: You've got to do something.
JT: I'm not really a down-type guy. I mean, I'll get up, have my lunch and then, boom -- I'm to the ballpark. I'm not a guy that hangs out in the hotel.
DP: You're one of the first guys at the ballpark?
JT: Usually, yes.
DP: Is there any clash over the clubhouse music?
DP: Starting pitcher decides?
JT: Lofton. We leave that up to Kenny Lofton.
DP: What kind of musical taste could I hear on any given day in the Indians clubhouse?
JT: You could probably listen to the modern rap. You could listen to some rock 'n' roll, we have country -- it's pretty mixed. That's the good thing. It's just not one type of music.
DP: If you control it for one day, what are we listening to?
JT: Probably a mixture of country and rock 'n' roll.
DP: Give me some of the artists.
JT: Oh, man. Probably Tim McGraw, Eric Clapton, a little AC/DC, maybe heavy metal, maybe The Doors.
DP: Last concert you went to?
JT: Tim McGraw.
DP: Was Faith there?
JT: And Faith, yes.
DP: She's a good kisser, you know that?
JT: She is?
DP: Yes, she really is.
JT: You know it?
JT: When did this go down?
DP: She's a nice lady. Hey, watch your language there -- she's a nice woman.
JT: She's a nice woman.
DP: Yes, she is. You know what? Sometimes they need comforting too. We think they have everything in the world but that's where I come in and say, what's wrong?
DP: These are the little things that you don't see on SportsCenter.
JT: That's why I'm on here learning.
DP: Yes, I know. It's mighty big of me, but it's the thing I do.
DP: When you play the Rangers and A-Rod gets to first, what are you going to talk about?
JT: Probably just say hello. I'd just say hello, see how he's doing, you know, just be real cool.
DP: Are you going to check and see if A-Rod has got his wallet in his back pocket?
JT: No, I won't do that.
DP: Who comes to first and you can't wait for them to get there because you know you're going to have a little dialogue.
JT: Bobby Higginson.
DP: You know, Higginson and Dibble were nearly going to go at it. They were going to go toe-to-toe.
JT: Really? What was the story behind this?
DP: When the Tigers and White Sox had their bench-clearing brawl and Dibble singled out Higginson, and then Higginson was upset and of course Dibble's not going to back down from anybody.
DP: What do you and Higginson talk about?
JT: We just kind of get on each other a little bit. I rap him because I know him and I can do that, you know. I mean, there's just certain guys you can do that with because you know them.
DP: You still haven't told me the guy in the NBA who has your type of game.
JT: It wouldn't be Carter.
DP: It's not Vince Carter, I realize that.
JT: No, it wouldn't. I would say -- you know what? Maybe Bird -- that type of player.
DP: Don't flatter yourself, Jim -- come on.
JT: Well, I'm just -- you asked me...
DP: You're talking about Larry Legend.
JT: Oh, yes.
DP: I mean, I could think maybe a guy like Granville Waiters or Matt Bullard or somebody, but you picked Larry Legend.
DP: I know. That's fine. You can stay with Bird.
JT: You asked me and I told you.
DP: All right, free association here -- whatever comes to mind. Unbalanced schedule.
JT: Long hours on the plane.
DP: High strike zone.
JT: Look up.
DP: The new Comiskey.
JT: It's home.
DP: The new Comiskey is home?
JT: Meaning that I'm from Illinois. When I think of Comiskey Park, I think, you know, I'm from Illinois -- I'll tell you what: friends and family.
DP: Oh, OK. Were you a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan?
JT: I was a Cubs fan.
DP: Favorite Cub?
JT: Ryne Sandberg.
DP: Mark Grace is so much older than you -- wasn't he a guy you looked up to?
JT: Yes, but when I was a kid Sandberg was in his prime, and you asked me to say one word.
DP: Yes, all right. Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
DP: Jacobs Field.
JT: Like no other.
DP: I was thinking you were going to say the House that Jim Built.
JT: No, the House than Dan Built.
DP: Omar Vizquel.
DP: He's got hands similar to mine.
DP: Well, with certain guys, the ball's hit to them, it's so effortless.
JT: You just know it's there.
DP: Yes, it's just second nature. It's no big deal to me.
DP: Last time you were scared?
JT: Last time I was afraid was when our alarm went off at our house one time.
DP: It woke you up?
JT: Absolutely. Had cops coming around the house because our alarm went off. It goes into our little town here, Aurora, and the cops kind of swarm the house -- and it was actually a mouse downstairs.
DP: Were you there in, like, boxer shorts or something when they came to the door?
JT: No, no. T-shirt, shorts -- but when your alarm goes off and it says motion in the basement, you think, uh-oh, what's that.
DP: Did you kill the mouse?
DP: Favorite actress and why.
JT: Favorite actress. Hmmm.
DP: I can come back to that. ... Favorite TV show and why.
DP: Who's you favorite character on "Friends"?
JT: Jennifer Aniston.
DP: Do you know her character's name on "Friends"? There's Monica, and Monica has dark hair.
JT: Right, Courtney Cox.
DP: Yes, and there's Lisa Kudrow...
JT: What's her character's name?
DP: I don't know ... but Jennifer Aniston is the reason you watch "Friends"?
JT: It's Rachel -- her character's name is Rachel.
DP: You like Rachel?
DP: I hate Ross.
JT: You don't like Ross?
DP: No, Ross is nerdie. I'm tired of Ross. But I do like Jennifer. I think she's very talented.
DP: And, of course, she looks good.
DP: Favorite actress?
JT: Sharon Stone.
DP: What movie? "Basic Instinct"?
JT: That's the one, yep.
DP: She was kind of scary in that.
DP: That's it. The interrogation is over.
JT: That's it, huh?
DP: Yes, you did well. I think you answered all the questions.
DP: When A-Rod gets to first, just tell him I said hello if you can.
JT: I sure will.
DP: Yes, just say, "Hey, I talked to Dan Patrick and he said to say hello."
JT: I definitely will.
DP: It may break the tension.
JT: Well, good -- and I'll see you Sunday night.
DP: Yes, Sunday -- hit a home run and then I'll give you, "Jim Thome with a Bomb."