Was Jim Thome's Labor Day shot a Twins omen?
Nearly 72 years ago to the day, Chicago Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett hit his "Homer in the Gloamin'," the late-game, late-September bomb that vaulted the Cubs to their eventual National League pennant in that season of yore.
To borrow from the phrase: last week we may very well have witnessed the "Homer of the Omen."
I just can't get Jim Thome's Labor Day blast off Royals' starter Sean O'Sullivan out of my head. And as the Twins' press toward their sixth postseason appearance in the Gardy Era (2002-Present), I can't help but think and feel that the following sentence will give us strength and belief when an eventual playoff berth finds us collectively chewing our nails:
JIM THOME HIT THE AMERICAN FLAG POLE ON LABOR DAY.
The long ball marked Thome's third home run in a personal two game stretch; a run that segued to five bombs in four games played -- a run exclamated by Thome's game-winner in the 12th versus Cleveland on Saturday.
But has there ever been a more symbolic home run in this town than Thome's Labor Day shot? Sure, there have been more important and meaningful blasts in the Twins 50-year history -- but Thome's September 6th bomb that nearly tapped the eagle atop the pole should undoubtedly speak to the baseball soul in all of us.
Thome is the embodiment of Americana: an old-fashioned lumberjack of a slugger who hails from Peoria, Ill., headquarters of Caterpillar, the world's leading manufacturer of construction equipment. Save for Independence Day and 9/11, I see no more powerful calendar date than Labor Day, and no more perfect candidate than Thome, to combine for such an inspired moment.
Now 40-years old, Thome, when his body allows, is evidencing a spirit that appears to envelop the Twins' dugout whenever he rips one from the yard. The team leader with 23 HR's, he's hitting bombs at a rate of one per every 10.8 at-bats, a clip which charts as the third-best of his career and ranks No. 1 in all of baseball.
The Labor Day bomb charted as the 585th of Thome's eventual Hall of Fame career, placing him one rocket shy of Frank Robinson. The distance of the shot has become a matter of some debate: first charted at a Target Field-record 480 feet, the homer is now recognized -- at least via hittracker.com -- at a true distance of 432 feet.
But no matter. The day following -- as if to make an overt point that we should not neglect the poignancy of the Labor Day moment -- Thome nearly accomplished the feat again, this time hitting a shot measured at 440 feet that just missed the American flag pole. The rocket tied Thome for 8th alongside Robinson on baseball's all-time HR list -- and it's well-worthy of note that of the top-14 on said list, six (including three ahead of Thome) are either suspected or confirmed juicers.
I won't go so far as to make any predictions herein about how far the Twins could go in the postseason. But the White Sox are toast and I'm starting to see something powerful here.
There is romanticism in baseball that eludes all other sport, and if you're willing to subscribe to that dance, you're also likely to believe in signs, in Baseball Gods, in moments, and, yes, in omens.
Jim Thome's Labor Day home run touched more than a flag pole. I believe it tapped into the earnest pursuit of a moment that we've neither seen nor touched for 20 seasons.
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