(AP, BLS Illustration)
Jonathan Papelbon got so mad at himself after blowing his first save of the season Saturday that he offered up a $5,000 reward on the spot for the Philadelphia Phillies teammate who got him off the hook.
An inning later, Thome hit a home run that not only cleared Papelbon, but also capped a wild 7-6 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays and set the all-time major-league record for game-ending home runs. Thome connected against left-hander Jake McGee for his 609th career homer, which ties Sammy Sosa for ninth on baseball's career list. It also was Thome's 13th game-ending blast, allowing him to surpass five Hall of Famers.
Papelbon later told reporters, including Ryan Lawrence of the Delaware County Times, that he had written out a check to Thome:
"I came in the clubhouse (after the blown save) and I said, 'Whoever walks this guy off, I'll give him five grand.' I didn't think Jim would do it right off the bat."
Papelbon also said, in the Associated Press story, that he offered Thome the home run bounty as he stood in the on-deck circle just before the winning hit. The above photo illustration shows what the transaction might have looked like in a perfect world. (Note that "Papelbon" mistakenly dated the re-created check for "2011" and wrote "winning bomb pop" in the memo.)
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Thome, who has a well-earned nice-guy image to protect, denied that any money had changed hands. Yet, anyway, and not where anyone could see. Because lip readers would tell you that Thome can be seen telling Papelbon "I want that check" as the Phillies congratulated him at the plate for his winning homer:
So, does Citizens Bank have any branches inside Citizens Bank Ballpark? Because it would be really convenient for Thome if it did. (If the game had been played at Chase Field, they could have used QuickPay.) No matter that Thome reportedly has earned roughly $141 million in his 20 seasons in the majors. This is a special five grand we're talking about.
''You never forget them,'' Thome said. ''These are moments you never know how long you'll have them.''
There's no word yet if Major League Baseball will take issue with Papelbon offering a bounty to Thome, but Internet rumors say the NFL already is in the process of penalizing the New Orleans Saints for the Phillies' apparent transgression.
In the meanwhile (as Thome's former manager Ozzie Guillen would put it), Thome can bask in the considerable glory that comes with passing some enormous company. Thome came in tied with Hall of Fame sluggers Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson and Babe Ruth for game-ending home runs. No longer.
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