Minnesota Twins slugger Jim Thome has become just the eighth player in baseball history to hit 600 home runs. Yet many Americans don't know his name and wouldn't recognize his face, as his Q-rating was never boosted by a headlines-grabbing steroid scandal.
"If I had to do it all over again – sure, I'd probably at least try to have my name linked to BALCO or that Galea guy," said Thome. "It's really the only way to get attention in modern baseball. But back when I was young, I didn't have the wisdom to know to surround my accomplishments with question marks."
Thome's push for 600 home runs received little fanfare — same as with his 500th home run in 2007 — but he soldiered on.
"I remember how much attention Bonds and McGwire and Sosa and Manny Ramirez got for their career milestones, while I'm pretty much ignored," said the 21-year veteran. "It's frustrating. I even had my wife draw some bacne on me in red pen last week in hopes it would catch the attention of reporters, but no one noticed."
Thome says he hopes his 600th home run and the lack of attention surrounding it serves as a lesson to younger players.
"I look at someone like Paul Konerko," said Thome. "He's five years younger than me and is only about 100 home runs short of 500. Yet he's ignored like I have been. But he still has time to change that. Paul, if you're listening, test positive for some supplement or have a shipment of steroids sent to your house intercepted by the authorities. Anything. It's not too late to be relevant. Don't be ignored by history like me."
Baseball writer Ken Rosenthal said that despite Thome's 600 clean home runs, he will struggle to vote the slugger into the Hall of Fame.
"Who's Jim Thome?" he said. "I can't in good conscience vote for someone I've never heard of."