August 27, 2011
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen talks so much, he is bound to say something folks don't want to hear.
Fans of the Cleveland Indians probably don't want to be reminded of how they treated Jim Thome(notes) at the Progressive Jake after he left via free agency, but as Guillen eagerly reminded them, it wasn't kindly. Thome certainly was booed — not by all, but mostly, and often vociferously — whenever he and the White Sox came to Cleveland.
The reaction was different Friday, when Thome made his first appearance with the Indians since 2002. Folks at the former Jake welcomed him warmly and overwhelmingly, with cheering voices, clapping hands and friendly signage.
As Indians GM Chris Antonetti pointed out, and Guillen repeated, it was Thome who made the decision to waive his no-trade clause and come back to Cleveland via a deal with the Minnesota Twins. Guillen added that any other player probably wouldn't have OK'd it.
"Anybody [else] in this game would tell Cleveland fans, 'Screw yourself — I ain't going there.' Jim Thome? That's why there's only one Jim Thome in baseball. And I tip my hate to him; I have more respect now for him than ever."
"Thank God the people of Cleveland forgot very quick, because they had the biggest standing ovation [for Thome] a few minutes ago. But they have a very short memory. I'm happy that Cleveland fans give him the welcome they way they should. They should forgive him, what happened, and they should be embarrassed about booing this man with no reason. Now they have him back and hopefully Jim plays good for them."
It's true that Thome had said they'd have to tear the Indians jersey off his back, but the Philadelphia Phillies made him an offer he couldn't refuse — especially considering the low-ball contract that Indians ownership offered him — so he left.
Indians fans, by their reaction at the ballpark, emptied their bitterness on the player instead of ownership. Apparently those hurt feelings take about nine years to subside, and are gone. Just not forgotten.