Posted: Friday May 5, 2006 1:59PM; Updated: Friday May 5, 2006 2:50PM
Jim Thome spent the first 12 years of his major league career in Cleveland.
It was the hour of twilight on a soft spring day toward the end of April in the year of Our Lord 1929....
Such begins Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again -- a viewpoint that was bolstered by a couple of scenes that took place in the hour of twilight on soft spring days toward the end of April in the year of Our Lord 2006.
Last Tuesday (strictly speaking, it was May 1, but that's still near the end of April), Johnny Damon -- dubbed by the New York Daily News as "the Prodigal Idiot" -- returned to Fenway Park, where he didn't let the fact that he was being lustily booed keep him from doffing his batting helmet.
Damon's reception, which also included a fair number of crumpled-up greenbacks being thrown his way, couldn't have been unexpected. (By the way, some of those bills looked like real 100s. Not sure I understand the logic of that. Sure, if Damon were to pick one up and pocket it -- an appealing thought, no doubt -- he'd look like a money-grubber, and you could have a good time screaming at him about the fact that he's so desperate for cash that he's willing to take a Benjamin off a hardworking fan. But the fact remains, you just gave $100 to a guy who makes $13 million a year. As always, I digress....)
Damon, after all, left the Red Sox for the Yankees, which is like giving up a job as a stock boy at Gimbel's for a job at Macy's -- only you'd be the only stock boy in either store pulling in $13 mil. Leader of the Idiot brigade or not, Damon had to know what was coming.
More of a surprise was the reception Jim Thome got in Cleveland. Thome came up through the Indians' system and helped build a team that had been awful for 50 years into a consistent winner. On a team of malcontents (Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, et al.) he was easy to root for -- a likable, Midwestern guy who went about his business and stayed out of trouble. And he hit more homers than anyone in the team's history.
After the 2002 season, he took an $85 million, six-year deal from the Phillies, which was $25 million more than the Tribe was offering. He made his return to the Jake as a member of the White Sox on Monday night and got ripped, which, as an Indians fan, I found disappointing.