Thanks to the magic of facebook (yes, I’ve FINALLY succumbed to its wiles), I’ve been able to re-connect with some old friends. One of them is an old buddy of mine named Jeff, who, in 1996, joined me on a trip to Cleveland for Spring Break. It wasn’t the ideal destination, but we made the most of it.
We ate sandwiches at a toll plaza in South Bend after we determined that swinging by Notre Dame would be too much of a hassle.
Closer to C-Town, we were pulled over by a cop who thought we were “joy riding”. It was after two in the morning and we were driving a BMW with Illinois plates, so I suppose we COULD have been joy riding…but alas, we weren’t.
We were just lost.
Once we found our way, we hit The Flats (where a waitress showed us her well-placed shamrock tattoo), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and since it was March, we walked around a vacant and cold Jacobs Field. But more on that place later.
So, with all apologies to the guy who slammed me for not including any milestones for the milestone-less Pittsburgh Pirates, here comes the AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The heart of the Sox lineup is poised to do some great things this season...historically speaking. They are getting older, sure, but with that age comes some milestones.
Now, I’m going to be the first to say that when I wrote a while back criticizing Jim Thome, I might have been a touch misguided. I’m not going to take back the statements where I said he wasn’t dominant or feared, but the longer he sticks around, the more apt he is to make me eat my “he’ll get lost in the mix” comments regarding his first ballot Hall of Fame candidacy.
This season, the Peoria native enters the season with 541 home runs. He’ll likely jump over Harmon Killebrew’s total (573) this season and, along with Alex Rodriguez, is inching closer and closer to the 600 mark.
Thome is 12 RBI away from hitting 1500 and aside from Harold Baines (1628) and Andre Dawson (1591), everyone who has 1500 or more RBI and is Hall eligible…has had their ticket punched.
This last stat I bring up only because I was criticized in the past for mentioning it. Thome is 116 strikeouts away from passing Sammy Sosa (2306) and becoming second all-time to Reggie Jackson’s 2597 Ks.
Surrounding Thome in the Sox lineup are two hitters that are both two long balls away from reaching 300 for their career…Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko. Last year, Dye hit his second in Game 5…Konerko in Game 11.
On April 4, 1994, President Bill Clinton christened the then Jacobs Field by throwing out its first pitch. Fans of that inaugural contest watched six sure-bet Hall of Famers: Eddie Murray (enshrined in 2003), Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome. Also on the field were such notables as Edgar Martinez, Kenny Lofton and Albert Belle.
Now, fifteen years later, the now Progressive Field is in the middle of the pack as the fifteenth oldest stadium. In its time, “The Jake” has hit its own milestones.
Between June 12, 1995 and April 4, 2001, the Indians set a record by selling out 455 straight games. Demand for tickets was so great that all 81 home games were sold out before opening day on three separate occasions.
The Indians have since "retired" the number 455 in honor of the sellout record.
Lost in all the Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez hubbub of late is the fact that Gary Sheffield is putting up one gem of a career.
A major leaguer at 18, Sheffield got off to a quick start by getting both his first hit and first home run with the same swing of the bat. Now, 498 home runs later…Sheffield is on the cusp of becoming the twenty-fifth player to hit 500 long balls. Something tells me that, again, he'll waste no time and get number 500 out of the way in the Tigers first series against Toronto.
Also worth mentioning...Sheffield comes into 2009 with 1633 RBI. Everyone who is Hall eligible and has more RBI than “Sheff” is enshrined in Cooperstown.
Throw out Barry Bonds and Sheffield is third on the active list for runs scored (behind Griffey and Rodriguez) and hits (behind Griffey and Vizquel).
KANSAS CITY ROYALS and MINNESOTA TWINS
Like I did previously with the Pirates, I could make something up here. However, I’m fresh out of any good Kevin Seitzer and Kent Hrbek references to make it worth anyone’s while.
The American League West is next. In the meantime, feel free to check out Milestone Previews of the American League East, National League East and National League Central.