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Only the 8th in history

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Jim Thome's 600th HR lights up the night at Comerica

If you want a flashy player for your team, one who is a perennial All Star and MVP candidate, then Jim Thome is not your man. In his 21 big league seasons, he's been named an All Star only five times, and he's finished in the top five in MVP voting only once. He's won only one Silver Slugger award, and he's struck out more than any other MLB player in history not named Reggie Jackson.

But if you want a teammate who comes to play day in and day out, one who consistently drives in important runs, then Thome is your guy.

Never one to play in the limelight, Thome was finally given some love when he reached the 600-home-run milestone on August 15th, 2011. BASEBALLPARKS.COM was there to cover it at Detroit's Comerica Park.

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It was a beautiful August evening in Michigan. For a Monday night, the crowd was unusually large -- the attendance was about 6,000 more than average at Comerica.

The game was anything but a pitchers' duel. Thome's two-run homer in the 6th off Detroit starter Rick Porcello had put the Twins up 5-3. It was his 599th career HR. When he came up the very next inning, the Twins were clinging to a 6-5 lead.

Daniel Schlereth had relieved Porcello at the beginning of the 7th, and he'd walked two and struck out two before Thome headed to the plate. So with two on and two out in the one-run game, Thome took a sinker and then a slow curve for balls. He then watched an 80-mph curve spin over the plate for a strike.

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Schlereth served up another 80-mph curve, and Thome was ready for it (above), hitting a towering drive to left. Tiger left-fielder Delmon Young, who had just been traded from the Twins to the Tigers earlier that day, watched the ball sail into Detroit's bullpen (below left). Thome virtually floated around the bases.

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Everyone in the Twins dugout came out to greet the latest member of the 600 Home Run Club. After hugging his teammates, Thome gave kisses to his daughter Lila, his little son Landon and his wife Andrea. Waiting to give his son a warm embrace was his father Chuck.

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Thome became only the eighth player in big league history to reach 600 home runs. I witnessed Sammy Sosa achieve that milestone, and since he was playing at home (for the Rangers, ironically against his former team the Cubs), there were fireworks and banners (see our photo essay on that evening). The lack of those things didn't dampen Thome's night at all, however.

Even though it was a visiting player who achieved the mark, one who has battered the hometown Tigers while playing for three different AL Central rivals over the years (he's hit more HRs against Detroit in his career than any other team), the home crowd gave Thome a loud, long ovation for his landmark blast. It was a great moment. "I'll remember the Detroit fans getting on their feet for the applause. That was really cool," he told a TV crew after the game.

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The 36,211 in attendance witnessed history, there's no doubt about it. Although their Tigers lost 9-6, I doubt many in the crowd will remember the score years from now. But they'll all remember seeing future Hall Of Famer Jim Thome reach a lofty plateau that only seven other players had ever achieved.