Jump to content

Thome at home with Sox


Recommended Posts

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercuryn ... 278882.htm

Posted on Mon, Nov. 28, 2005

Thome at home with Sox


Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - As Jim and Andrea Thome drove to U.S. Cellular Field early Monday afternoon, they did not need directions. The Thomes knew exactly where they were going, even if they still struggled to understand exactly how they had gotten there.

"It all hasn't sunk in, it's all happened so quick," Jim Thome said, shaking his head.

"We were in the car on the way over here," Andrea Thome added, "and we looked at each other, and said, `What just happened?' "

The Thomes do share a theory. They credit a power even higher than Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf or general manager Ken Williams.

"We think Jim's mom looked out for him and gave him a chance to come home to close out his career," Andrea Thome said. "She would have loved this and, in her own way, she'll be there next season too."

She is Joyce Thome, who died of lung cancer last Jan. 5 at 68. The matriarch of a family that includes Jim's two brothers and two sisters, Joyce used to tell Jim, who quit chewing tobacco in 2003 the day his mom was diagnosed, that she was on his shoulder no matter where he went.

Naturally, it helped Thome to believe she was there again Monday, above his shoulder as he floated on top of the baseball world.

"We are all still going through the personal grieving over my mom," Thome said.

She was the type of mom who sent her major-league son cookies during slumps or waited by the phone when she knew he would call on his way to the ballpark. The type of mom who secretly stored her son's baseball mementos from Little League to the majors and made Opening Day Mother's Day by attending 11 straight openers during Thome's career.

"The rock," Thome called his mom.

As tough as losing her has been on Thome and his siblings, the loss might have been toughest on their dad, Chuck. Chuck Thome worked 39 years as a foreman at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, but that was easy work compared to the task of living alone since his wife died. He kept a recording of his wife's voice on her cell phone as a keepsake, but couldn't hide his anguish from his son over the past year when he called.

That made the call Thome made to his dad's house in Peoria on Wednesday more memorable than the typical holiday how-do-you-do.

"For Jim to be able to tell his dad on the phone that he had been traded to Chicago - Chicago! - that might have been the most special thing about this," said Andrea Thome, who has been on the other side of the questions she was being asked. A former Cleveland television news anchor, she has considered going back to reading a teleprompter after she is done reading Dr. Seuss books to her young daughter.

A few feet away, her husband was gripping and grinning his way through the mass of Chicago media that had assembled to meet someone who seems more suited for Mayberry than Bridgeport. Wearing sideburns that could have been trimmed by Floyd the barber, Thome wore a dress shirt and blue-striped tie under his No. 25 White Sox jersey.

He used the word "neat" more than the word "I," and, unlike many me-first major-leaguers, downplayed the goal of hitting 70 more home runs to reach the 500-homer milestone. He deferred gracefully when addressing the possibility he might be replacing Sox legends Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko.

"As a guy (long) on tradition, I respect that and will try to do what I can," he said.

When Thome responded to a question, his eyes made contact like his big bat does with a hanging curve. He connected powerfully, his words dripping with sincerity and his look of innocence suggesting he was taking a break from a rehearsal for "Our Town."

It is that presence which makes the Sox nonplused over concerns about clubhouse chemistry. And it is that strength which Thome wanted so badly to lend to his father and his entire family in Peoria that has leaned on him over the past two years.

Jim and Andrea will begin house hunting in the western suburbs Tuesday, looking for a location ideally suited for a young family interested in commuting to the South Side and occasionally escaping to Peoria. The spot will be close enough, his wife said, that Thome, an avid hunter, can sneak home on off days to hunt on his estate or to just check in on his dad.

Wherever it is, it will be closer than Philadelphia and Cleveland, the team that wanted Thome back maybe even worse than the Sox wanted him. In welcoming a trade to the South Side, the veteran with a no-trade clause in his contract confirmed that, for him, the move had less to do with beefing up the heart of the Sox batting order than addressing matters of the heart.

"That played a big part, because I knew the situation had been tough on my dad," Thome said. "It was a big thing for us. I've always said the great thing about baseball is how it brings people together. Grieving is a little bit easier to do when you're closer together."

On Jan. 14, Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, for which Thome has raised more than $1 million, will sponsor the Joyce Thome Benefit that was renamed to honor her memory. The family will mourn and celebrate, mixing tears with smiles as they feel pride amid their pain. Just like the Thomes did Monday.

"My wife and I got off the plane and my daughter was saying `White Sox, White Sox,' " Thome said, smiling as the cameras clicked. "This is pretty neat."

© 2005, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.