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Flashback Fridays: Jim Thome

Jim Thome's 1993 Season Stands The Test of Time
Jim Thome was the International League MVP In 1993, his final season before going on to a Hall of Fame career.
April 24, 2020

The year was 1993. Jurassic Park was #1 at the box office. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was the top song on the charts and Michael Jordan – the G.O.A.T. –announced his retirement from the NBA in October of that year. In Major League Baseball, teams like the

The year was 1993. Jurassic Park was #1 at the box office. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was the top song on the charts and Michael Jordan – the G.O.A.T. –announced his retirement from the NBA in October of that year.

In Major League Baseball, teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies were on top, and new franchises like the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies made their much-anticipated debuts.

In Minor League Baseball, fans were in for a real treat as some of the game’s brightest stars were on their way up – especially in Triple-A. Fans in the Charlotte area would finally get a glimpse of those Triple-A players as the Charlotte Knights moved up from a Double-A team to a Triple-A team beginning in 1993. As the area said goodbye to the Southern League and hello to the International League, the Knights also welcomed in a new affiliate. After four years as the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs (1989-1992), the franchise welcomed the Cleveland Indians to Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC. With that, a bevy of young talented players also arrived. There was one, however, that stood out right away and went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND
James Howard Thome -- better known to the baseball world as Jim Thome -- made his mark on the Charlotte area in 1993. Drafted in the 13th round of the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft, Thome made his way through Cleveland's organization and found himself in Fort Mill, SC in 1993 -- just in time for the Knights to become a Triple-A franchise.

THE 1993 KNIGHTS
Thome was surrounded by a wealth of veterans such as Sam Horn, Jeff Schaefer, Dennis Cook, Don August, Bob Milacki, Alan Cockrell, and Heathcliff Slocumb -- as well as youngsters such as Mark Lewis, Kelly Stinnett, Paul Byrd, Chad Ogea, Jerry Dipoto -- and later, Manny Ramirez. At the helm of the team was Charlie Manuel, a player's manager who took the team to 86 wins and the Governors' Cup Championship.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE MVP
In a league with Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, Rico Brogna, and Cliff Floyd, Thome shined. In his one and only season with the Knights, the Peoria, IL native quickly showed his ability on the baseball diamond. At the age of 22, he hit a remarkable .332 and clubbed 25 home runs while driving in 102 RBIs in 1993 with the Knights en route to a September call-up with the Indians. For his efforts as the batting champ, he earned the International League’s Most Valuable Player Award.

JEFF SCHAEFER ON JIM THOME
When Thome was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018, I caught up with his former teammate, Jeff Schaefer, who talked about what Thome meant to the team that year.

#KnightsTV caught up with 1993 Charlotte Knights infielder Jeff Schaefer, who spoke about his teammate, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum slugger, Jim Thome. #93Knights

Posted by Charlotte Knights on Friday, January 26, 2018
In 1993, the Charlotte Knights paid tribute to the Charlotte Hornets and wore throwback uniforms.

GOVERNORS' CUP CHAMPS
Perhaps most importantly for the franchise, Thome, along with the guidance of Manuel, helped lead the Knights a 1993 Governors’ Cup Championship in their first season as a Triple-A franchise. The team's 86 wins are still the most in a season for the franchise.

The 1993 Charlotte Knights, led by manager Charlie Manuel (pictured),beat the Rochester Red Wings three games to two to claim the Governors' Cup in their first season as a Triple-A franchise.

MEMORIES OF THE 1993 SEASON WITH KARL LYLES

Back in 2013, when the Knights were closing down Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, I sat down with Karl Lyles. Karl had an up-close experience with the Knights as he was the team's Media Relations Director that season. Karl shared his memories of Jim Thome, Charlie Manuel, and more.

MLB CAREER
For his career, Thome mashed 612 career home runs at the major league level over 22 seasons -- four of those with Manuel at the helm. A five-time All-Star, he led the National League in home runs in 2003 with an impressive 47 while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, one of six teams he played for in his major league career (Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles). He finished his illustrious big league career with 2,328 career hits and 1,699 RBIs.

RETURN TO CHARLOTTE
On April 11, 2014, Thome helped usher in a new era of professional baseball in Charlotte as he threw out a ceremonial first pitch at the opening of BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte.

Jim Thome was among one of the first people to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at BB&T Ballpark.

CHARLOTTE BASEBALL ROUND TABLE OF HONOR

In 2016, in conjunction with hosting the Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte, the Charlotte Knights relaunched the "Charlotte Baseball Hall of Fame" and renamed it the "Charlotte Baseball Round Table of Honor" during the All-Star game festivities. The team decided that the first two inductees would be Thome and Manuel.

The iconic duo received their plaques and spoke to the "Voice of the Charlotte Knights" Matt Swierad in front of players, coaches, and guests at the 2016 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game Luncheon on the morning of July 13th at the Charlotte Convention Center. Later that night, they threw out a ceremonial first pitch later that evening at the 2016 Sonic Automotive Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game.

Charlie Manuel and Jim Thome accepted their plaques at the 2016 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Luncheon. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights
With a national audience from MLB Network, and before a sold-out crowd at BB&T Ballpark, Jim Thome and Charlie Manuel threw out ceremonial first pitches at the 2016 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game in Uptown Charlotte. Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME

Thome was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 becoming the first player in Charlotte Knights franchise history to earn entrance into the Hall.

"He’s the nicest, gentlest guy you will ever meet...to everything except the baseball. " - Michael Cuddyer