A good night for Thome – and baseball

Jim Thome's 600th career home run put him in elite company, and made for a great night at the park. (abclocal.go.com)

If 36,000 people give you a standing ovation at Comerica Park, you’re either a Detroit Tiger or a legend.

Last night, Jim Thome got that ovation — in a Twins uniform.

He joined a club with only seven other members. You know them all. Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds. Babe Ruth. Willie Mays. Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa. Alex Rodriquez. And now, Jim Thome.

He came into the game with 598 home runs to his name. And he left with a guaranteed spot in Cooperstown.

I wanted to see him get there — to 600. You’d really have to be some kind of evil to not root for a guy like Thome. But I’d be lying if I said I wanted to see it up close. I was hoping he’d make history in Cleveland last week. Or at home against Boston or Chicago earlier this month. I’m sure we both would’ve liked that.

I’m guessing Dan Schlereth might have liked that, too. As the pitcher who will be famous (or at least good trivia) for what he gave up, Schlereth admitted to feeling a bit conflicted about the whole thing: “I felt kind of awkward. I didn’t know whether to clap or what. I didn’t know what to do. I’m probably going to write him a letter, congratulate him on his feat.”

It was just that kind of night, really. A few good stories.

Delmon Young rode to the game on the Twins bus, though he’d been traded to the Tigers hours earlier. And in his first at-bat as a Tiger, Young hit a home run off a guy who’d been his teammate that morning. Welcome to Detroit, Mr. Young. Please, make yourself at home.

Alex Avila was a home run away from hitting for the cycle. But he’d have to settle for taking one away from the Twins, as Ben Revere tried for an inside-the-park home run. Plowed into at the plate, Avila held on to the ball for the out. As he lay on the ground, Revere looked back to Avila to make sure he was OK, and then smiled like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

I expect a lot out of baseball. Sportsmanship. Greatness. A good story. A win. Sometimes baseball falls short.

Last night, the Tigers put up six runs and lost. But we can talk about that later.

Because when a guy such as Jim Thome hits his 600th home run in my hometown — a city that often undeservedly serves as a metaphor for everything that is ugly — I hold my breath and watch.

And when the people — 36,000 people — stand up and cheer for the guy on the other team because that is history, that is greatness, that is a good story, well, when that happens, baseball doesn’t disappoint — it rises above.

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