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Jim Thome named 2016 Phillies Wall of Fame inductee

The country-bred slugger will be honored by the team later this summer.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Jim Thome signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 2002, and the course of the franchise would be altered forever.

That is the reason the Phils announced Thome will be the team's 38th inductee onto the Wall of Fame later this summer, an award given out every year to a player who made an impact during his time with the franchise.

Yes, Thome only played parts of four seasons with the Phillies. But his impact on the team, and the city, went much further than many of the balls he launched out of yard.

Simply put, Thome brought baseball back to Philadelphia. As the most sought-after free agent that year, the slugger from Cleveland did what very few free agents had done since Pete Rose signed with the team before the 1979 season.

He chose Philadelphia, signing the most lucrative contract in team history. And during his first two years with the team, he was incredible.

In 2003, he finished fourth in the NL MVP voting after hitting a league-high 47 home runs, with 131 RBIs and an NL-best 182 walks. He had an OPS of .958 that season, and followed it up with a 42 homer season in 2004, piling up 105 RBIs and a .977 OPS, the first at Citizens Bank Park.

It was in that 2004 season that he hit his milestone 400th homer.

Unfortunately, the team fell short of the playoffs each season, and then age caught up with him.

In 2005, back issues cropped up and allowed him only to play 59 games. That opened the door for a youngster named Ryan Howard to replace Big Jim and, well, the rest is history. Thome was traded the following off-season to the Chicago White Sox, for a person named Daniel Haigwood, Aaron Rowand and... wait for it... Gio Gonzalez.

Fortunately, in the final season of his career, Thome came back one last time, in 2012, as a back-up first baseman and pinch-hitter. But he only played 30 games with the team, hitting five homers, mostly off the bench.

However, even his final home run contained some drama.

A walk-off shot. The man could pick his moments.

Of course, there are going to be people who may not understand why the Phillies are choosing to honor a player who played only four seasons with the team, with just two of them being truly great seasons.

But Thome's time with the Phils was about way more than his production on the field. His arrival signaled to the rest of the baseball world that Philadelphia was a legitimate baseball destination once again. He opened the door for future big-name free agents to sign here. And he also revitalized and renewed interest in the game in a city that had abandoned the sport after the 1994 strike.

Thome is a certain first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2018, along with Chipper Jones. But before he gets to Cooperstown, on August 12, he'll join a very special group of Philadelphia Phillies on their Wall of Fame.

It is well deserved.

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