05 Aug Jim Thome celebrates MLB retirement with commemorative statue
Few big bronze statues have attracted as many column inches in recent days as that of a true legend in Major League Baseball (MLB), former Cleveland Indian Jim Thome. Indeed, the prolific power hitter – who played for five other teams and hit 612 home runs over a more than two decade career – signed an honorary one-day contract prior to the unveiling of his statue.
The statue was officially shown to the world for the first time at Progressive Field, Cleveland Ohio on Saturday, Thome quipping to the crowd: “I haven’t officially retired yet.” He then spoke of his pride of doing so as a member of the team with which he remains most strongly associated, having played with them in the 1990s and early 2000s. He returned to the Indians in 2011, when the 8-foot tall bronze statue was announced.
Now it has finally been unveiled outside Heritage Park, just beyond the centerfield wall of Progressive Field, the area which features plaques honoring the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame. It shows Thome in his iconic batting stance pose, his bat pointed towards the pitcher. The statue is the work of Lakewood artist David Deming, who spent about a year working on it.
A particular challenge – besides the replication of the pose that Thome first adopted to relax at the plate – was capturing the legend’s determined look as an opposing pitcher would throw a fastball towards him. This was precisely what the artist asked Thome to imagine during one of their initial sessions.
Deming commented: “I wanted him to have that look on his face. That was important to me, to capture the intense look that he had when he was really up to bat.” It seems that he did a great job, Thome himself describing the finished result as “absolutely incredible.”
“I don’t think anyone could ever be comfortable getting a statue, I mean that respectfully,” the Peoria, Illinois native also observed. “You play the game as a kid, you progress through high school, you get drafted, you go through the minor leagues. Nobody ever dreams of a statue, I certainly didn’t.”
However, the news of the statue’s unveiling – making Thome only the second franchise player to be so honored after Bob Feller – was met with a chorus of approval from key figures throughout baseball, including Indians President Mark Shapiro, who said: “Jim is a player with accomplishments and statistics that warrant a statue. There have been other statues and there will be more, but there will never be a person more humble or of higher character.”
As a company that has produced more than a few big bronze statues in our time, we find it very difficult to disagree here at Big Statues.