May 29, 2001 – Jim Thome Passes Belle as Indians All-time Home Run Leader
In 1990, minor-league hitting coach Charlie Manuel would instruct a young Jim Thome to relax and extend his bat toward center field at the beginning of each at bat. That pose is now immortalized as a statue in the plaza beyond center field in downtown Cleveland.
After breaking into the big-leagues full-time in 1994, Jim Thome became a prolific slugger who was sometimes overshadowed on team’s full of power hitters with big personalities.
After Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez had signed elsewhere as free agents, Thome continued on with the Tribe through the 2002 season, bringing continuity and continued production year upon year.
In the middle of a weekday series with Detroit, Thome was hitting 5th in the lineup when Dave Burba matched up with the Tiger’s Victor Santos at Comerica Park.
Santos struck out Jacob Cruz and Omar Vizquel to start the game. Robbie Alomar tripled, and Santos walked Juan Gonzalez on five pitches. Thome kicked off the scoring with a line drive RBI double down the right field foul line.
The Tigers manufactured two runs off Burba in the bottom of the third, taking the early lead.
Leading off in the top of the fourth, Thome sent an opposite-field home run over the wall in left-center. This was his 243rd career home run, all with the Indians. This put him over Albert Belle as the all-time franchise home run leader.
There was plenty of offense in the game, with several lead changes. Robbie Alomar’s two-run home run off Heath Murray in the top of the 7th would end up being the winning run. The Tribe went on to a 6-4 win on the day.
The next year, Thome would break the single-season home-run mark of 50 also set by Belle in 1995 when he smacked 52 before departing for Philadelphia as a free agent in the off season.