Jim Thome joins Indians Hall of Fame, but Albert Belle a no-show
CLEVELAND — Jim Thome said he had only one regret as he entered the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame: Albert Belle, another slugger who teamed with Thome on Cleveland’s powerful teams in the mid-1990s, wasn’t in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony.
”I was looking forward to seeing him,” said Thome, the franchise leader in home runs with 337. ”I know the fans would have loved to see him. It would have been exciting.”
Belle provided a menacing presence in Cleveland’s lineup but was known as much for his temper, which led to several suspensions. He has had a chilly relationship with the Indians organization since leaving as a free agent following the 1996 season.
Belle declined an invitation to attend this weekend’s ceremonies. He also didn’t attend a 20-year anniversary celebration of the 1995 team that won Cleveland’s first pennant in 41 years.
The Indians paid tribute to Belle with a video package featuring several of his memorable moments with the team.
Frank Robinson, who became the first African-American manager in the major leagues with the Indians in 1975, and outfielder Charlie Jamieson, who starred for the team in the 1920s, also were inducted.
Thome, who received a long standing ovation as he walked on the field, played for the Indians from 1991-02 and again in 2011. His 13-year-old daughter, Lila, sang the national anthem.
”We made it fun here,” said Thome, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018. ”Cleveland will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Indians manager Terry Francona’s teams went against Thome several times over the years.
”I used to scream at him when he came up to hit, tell him to bunt,” Francona said. ”He was one of the handful of guys if I wasn’t managing I’d pay to watch hit. He took those big swings and hit those majestic home runs. He had one thing on his mind when he was hitting.”