That sort of simplicity comes naturally to Thome. The license plate on one of his trucks reads 25 DBTH, for his jersey number and his operating philosophy: Don't believe the hype. Thome is in the first year of a four-year contract extension that will pay him a minimum of $24.6 million, but looking at him you would never know he's rich. His main concession to wealth is the 100 wooded acres in Ellisville, Ill., a 45-minute drive from Peoria, that he bought for deer hunting last year.
In a way Peoria is still the center of Thome's universe. He continues to keep a lot of his stuff—souvenir balls, T-shirts, a CD called Country Dance Super Hits—hi his bedroom in his parents' house, the house where he was raised with his two brothers and two sisters. It's a little house, long since paid off with the wages Chuck earned working at Caterpillar for 39 years. The TV room is a shrine to Jimmy's career. "He deserves the attention," says Jenny Thome Ellis, Jim's twin (older by 90 seconds), speaking for her older sister and two brothers. "It don't bother us. You can't be jealous of somebody you love."
One night last week Jenny, a bank teller, was driving around Peoria in her Chevy Blazer. (Her Illinois license plate reads INDIANS.) She was making the rounds, checking the ball fields, seeing what games were being played. It was 6:30 and everybody in town was finished with supper. Her parents were up in Milwaukee, about to watch the second game of the Indians-Brewers series. Her brother was about to begin the 726th game of his major league life. "He'll get two hits tonight," she said suddenly. "I get these feelings. Can't explain it. Two hits. He'll drive in two runs. The Indians will win 5-3."
Not much surprise in the next morning's paper for Jenny. Jimmy got a hit, and reached on an error that could have been ruled a hit. Cleveland won 5-2. He drove in two of the five. As they say in Peoria, same old, same old. You know those Thomes. For baseball, they got a knack.