Thome's 500th Gives White Sox 9-7 Win

Sunday, September 16th 2007, 7:27 pm
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Jim Thome knew his 500th homer would be special. He had no idea it would be a game-winner, too.

Thome hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to give the Chicago White Sox a 9-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, becoming the 23rd player _ and third this season _ to reach 500 home runs.

``Just can't believe it. I really can't,'' Thome said. ``I would never have imagined doing that as a walk-off. Just amazing to see your teammates standing there. It's like a movie script.''

The slugger drove a 3-2 pitch from reliever Dustin Moseley to left-center, ending an 0-for-11 slump and reaching the milestone in style. Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez also hit No. 500 this year.

Thome raised his arm in the air as he rounded the bases, and he was mobbed by his teammates at the plate before he hugged his father and wife. Teammates Bobby Jenks and Jermaine Dye then hoisted the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Thome on their shoulders.

``It's hard to explain what's going through me right now,'' Thome said. ``What a great day. It's tough to hit home runs when people want you to.''

It was the first time a player hit a game-ending homer for No. 500, and the first time three players reached the plateau in one season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Thome made it to the milestone in 6,809 at-bats, the fourth-fewest among members of the 500-homer club behind Mark McGwire (5,487), Babe Ruth (5,801) and Harmon Killebrew (6,671).

Thome said he hoped his milestone could come during a victory, and it did. Chicago rallied from a 7-1 deficit. He hit No. 499 last Wednesday and then finally connected in his fifth at-bat Sunday.

``As it kept going on I tried to tell myself, `Relax, relax, just let it happen, let it happen.' In that situation, especially tied, you're looking for a ball to drive and I was having a really hard time seeing with the shadows,'' Thome said.

On a day when the White Sox handed out Thome bobbleheads as a promotion, the DH was 0-for-4 when he came to bat in the ninth. After Darin Erstad singled to start the inning, Thome delivered his 28th homer of the season off Moseley (4-3).

``There are 499 other guys who gave one up,'' Moseley said. ``Somebody had to do it and I can handle it.''

The ball was retrieved by 28-year-old Will Stewart of Austin, Texas, who was in town for an accounting convention and didn't know until he came to U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday morning that he had a chance to see baseball history.

For returning the ball, Stewart got two White Sox season tickets for next season, the use of Thome's suite for a Cubs-White Sox game and some signed items by the slugger. Stewart donated the season tickets back to Thome's charity since he doesn't live in Chicago.

Thome broke in with the Indians in 1991 and spent 12 seasons with Cleveland and three with the Phillies before coming to Chicago in a trade before last season. He acknowledged his teammates over the years, but had a special mention for Charlie Manuel, the current Phillies manager, who also managed in Cleveland and was Thome's early hitting instructor.

``Charlie has been like a father to me in the game and I know this is a big moment for him. I know he will cherish this as much as I have, because we've been through this grind together a long, long time,'' Thome said.

Thome took the knob of his bat and wrote something in the dirt behind the plate as he came up the first time, a way of paying tribute to his late mother, Joyce, who died of cancer in January 2005.

``She did a great job of raising him,'' said his father, Chuck. ``He's pretty special.''

Father and son plan to personally deliver the 500th home run ball to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Thome's wife, Andrea, who is expecting their second child, said her husband was relatively calm, even with a contingent of about 25 family members and friends watching. If he hadn't connected Sunday, his next opportunity would have come in Kansas City.

``He's been amazing. Everyone else has been a wreck,'' she said. ``He's been so relaxed and loose.''

Thome couldn't put his achievement in perspective Sunday, at least not right away.

``I really don't think it will sink in until I'm home this winter and you reflect on things,'' he said.

Mike MacDougal (2-5) got the win with two innings of relief.

Danny Richar's two-run homer off Scot Shields in the bottom of the eighth tied the game at 7.

After the Angels scored four in the seventh, Chicago responded with four in the bottom half as Josh Fields hit a three-run homer off Chris Bootcheck to pull the White Sox to 7-5.

Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera homered as the AL West leaders built their lead. Saunders allowed two hits and a run with five walks and seven strikeouts over six innings.

Guerrero reached 25 homers for a 10th straight season with a solo shot in the first off Mark Buehrle.

Rivera, who broke his leg in winter ball and was playing in just his fifth game of the season after coming off the disabled list on Sept. 2, hit his first homer, a two-run shot in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

Notes: Angels OF Gary Matthews Jr. missed his fifth straight game with a sprained ankle. ... Buehrle allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings.