|Thome happy to be back in Philly|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 11 June 2007 13:07|
``You know why you're not playing, right?'' the Chicago White Sox manager asked his slugger.
Thome's eyes widened as if he missed some horrible, breaking news.
``I don't want them to have to boo my favorite player!'' Guillen said, breaking into hysterical laughter as he hugged a smiling Thome.
Not even the notoriously coarse Philly fans would boo one of their former favorite players - and all-around nice guy - like Thome. Right?
They didn't get a chance to react either way on Monday night as Thome was out of the White Sox lineup against the Phillies. Without the designated hitter for this interleague series, Thome wasn't expected to get a start in his first trip back to Philadelphia since 2005 until Wednesday.
``When I was here, I had a wonderful time,'' Thome said. ``I appreciate the fans and the support they gave me here. They took me and my family in.''
Even Thome, once considered the Phillies franchise player when he signed as a free agent in the winter of 2002, wondered what kind of reaction he would receive. He was booed when he returned to Cleveland, but understood that Indians fans felt he deserted them for big bucks.
In Philly, it was different. Thome was loved from his first day in Philly because he was viewed as the slugger who could put the Phillies over the top and back into the World Series.
When Thome was traded to Chicago after the 2005 season, his departure was viewed as inevitable because of his injuries that cost him most of the second half of the season and his younger replacement was ready and already considered baseball's next big star.
Yes, it's worked out just fine for Thome in Chicago and NL MVP Ryan Howard in Philadelphia.
With his down-home charm and mammoth homers, Thome was an instant hit. He led the NL in homers in 2003 with 47 and hit 42 the next season. In the final game at Veterans Stadium in 2003, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt raised Thome's hand at home plate in a symbolic passing of the Louisville Slugger.
And almost three years ago to the day - June 14, 2004 - Thome hit career homer No. 400 in Philadelphia.
``Hopefully you'll see the 500th and 600th in a Phillies uniform,'' former Phillies manager Larry Bowa said after the game.
But it wasn't to be for Thome because back and elbow injuries limited him to 59 games in 2005, when he slumped to .207 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 193 at-bats. Howard's emergence made it easier to consider moving Thome.
The Phillies briefly toyed with converting Howard into an outfielder in spring training in 2005.
``We came to the conclusion we had two first baseman,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ``If we could have found a position for Jimmy and Ryan, we would have kept them both.''
Thome bounced back with 42 homers and 109 RBIs last year in Chicago, and is batting .281 with eight homers and 23 RBIs this season.
Once Thome missed time with his injuries, Howard stepped in and was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005. He followed that up with a .313 average, 58 home runs, 149 RBIs and the MVP.
``He was here, I was just up and coming trying to learn what I could learn,'' Howard said. ``It was good. He helped me out.''
Thome keeps in contact with Manuel, his former manager and close friend. And if Thome gets the hit this series that beats the Phils?
``It'll be nice,'' he said, smiling.
Then he would definitely be booed.