Indians to induct, Thome, Robinson, Belle into club hall
CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians will induct sluggers Jim Thome, Albert Belle and Frank Robinson, the first black manager in baseball history, into their Hall of Fame this summer.
The trio will be enshrined along with the late Charlie Jamieson, a member of Cleveland's 1920 World Series champion team, during a ceremony at Progressive Field before the July 30 game against the Oakland Athletics.
Thome ended his career with 612 homers, a team-record 337 of them as a member of the Indians. He debuted with Cleveland as a slender third baseman but blossomed into one of the game's most powerful hitters.
''You look at, over the years, the organization, all the great players that have come through here and that have their numbers retired and are in the Hall of Fame. To be a part of that is humbling, but cool,'' the 45-year-old Thome said Friday night.
Thome was honored by the Indians during the 2014 season with a statue outside Progressive Field's center-field gate. He said this tribute ranks among the greatest he's received.
''(It's) as big as there is because it shows the organization cares about you,'' he said. ''Similar to the statue, they just don't put guys in the Hall of Fame. You have to earn that and to be in it and to go in with a guy like Albert is pretty special.''
Thome and the combative Belle powered the Indians resurgence in the 1990s when the team had one of the most fearsome lineups in the majors.
Belle is second in career home runs in an Indians uniform with 242. He remains the only player in major league history to have hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles in the same season, a feat he accomplished in 1995 when Cleveland reached the World Series.
''Albert was a true competitor,'' Thome said. ''He competed at a level I don't think, personally, I've ever seen. He was one of the most tenacious, not only right-handed hitters, but when it was clutch time, for me, he was as good as there was.''
Belle rarely participates in team activities in Cleveland. He didn't attend the 20th anniversary of the 1995 club.
Thome said hopes this honor might change Belle's approach.
''It would be wonderful'' if Belle attended the enshrinement, Thome said. ''I think it would be great for him, personally, but I think it would be great for the city.''
Robinson broke the color barrier for managers with Cleveland in 1974 and served three seasons as a player/manager. He hit 586 career home runs, was the MVP in both leagues and is a member of the baseball Hall of Fame.
AP freelance writer Hayden Grove contributed to this story.