Thome visits Phillies before Game 4
White Sox slugger chats with Manuel, former teammates
PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome was all smiles as he emerged from the Phillies clubhouse during batting practice on Sunday afternoon, looking very much at home as he made his rounds with hugs and handshakes for dozens he knew during his years with his former organization.
"It's very special," Thome said, speaking with reporters in the Phillies' dugout. "I told my wife today coming here, my time here will always be memorable for me. It helped me grow into a person, it helped me grow into a player and ultimately be where I'm at."
Thome's White Sox were bounced from the postseason in the first round by the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, dashing the designated hitter's hopes that he would meet his old team in the World Series. While disappointed his postseason abruptly ended after four games of the AL Division Series, Thome couldn't be happier for his old Phillies mates, who entered Game 4 two wins shy of capturing their first World Series title in 28 years.
"I'm so happy for all these guys," he said. "They've worked extremely hard to get to where they're at, and they're like brothers. I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
As thrilled as Thome was to catch up with his former teammates, his primary reason for the visit was to see his old skipper Charlie Manuel, whom Thome has known since he was just a kid climbing the ladder in the Indians organization in the early 1990s. Manuel managed Thome's Indians from 2000-02, and the two were reunited for one more season in '05, Thome's last with the Phillies.
Thome and Manuel have remained extremely close over the years, and because Thome wasn't able to attend the visitation following Manuel's mother's death a few weeks ago, this reunion was especially important.
"I talked to Charlie two times by phone," Thome said. "I knew he was very busy through all of this. I called him one time and told him how sorry I was about his mother, and I know he's been busy with the stuff that's been going on. I wanted to come here today for him and see him and root the guys on and watch this crazy crowd."
Thome, who lost his own mother to lung cancer three years ago, understands all too well what Manuel is going through.
"You always have your mother," Thome said. "The day she leaves -- Charlie and I were saying -- you expect a phone call. 'When's mom going to call?' It just stops. You don't get that call.
"I think the great thing of our game here is the game is also a part of the healing process. When I went to Spring Training after mom died, it eased things."
Thome signed with the Phillies as a free agent in 2003, but he was traded to the White Sox after three seasons, mostly due to the emergence of Ryan Howard, whom Thome was blocking at first base.
Three years later, Thome is nothing but happy for Howard's success, along with the postseason triumphs of the rest of his former teammates. But he's happiest for Manuel, who was roundly criticized as a bad choice for manager when former general manager Ed Wade hired him in '05.
"He's very special," Thome said. "I was telling his son -- everything Charlie has gotten out of his career, he's earned it. I think he's gained respect through the game from his players, from people from the media now. In life, I think karma happens to good people. And good things happen to good people that pay their dues, and he's living proof of it right now."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.