Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thome helps keep Legislature busy

So just what DO our state legislators do with their time when they’re not addressing the lack of a state budget for the current fiscal year?

There was a bit of a stink a few weeks ago when the General Assembly managed to pass the measure that declared corn to be the official state vegetable for Illinois. Some from people who argue corn isn’t a vegetable (it’s a grain), while others just think it is a totally pointless thing to do.

WILL THESE SAME people come crawling out of the woodwork in coming weeks when the state Senate will be asked to consider a measure designating a portion of U.S. Route 24 in Peoria as the Jim Thome Highway?

As in the same Thome who included a few seasons of his professional baseball career with the Chicago White Sox and hit his 500th Home Run of his career in the White Sox pinstripes – although the 600-home run milestone was achieved while he wore the dingy and dumpy uniform of the Minnesota Twins.

The measure already has come before the Illinois House of Representatives – where it was approved without opposition earlier this week. Hey, the legislators had to do something to justify their per diem payment to cover their living expenses to be in the Illinois capital city to NOT approve a state government budget.

Unless Chicago Cubs fans who serve in the Illinois Senate decide to get more ornery and cranky than usual (that’s what a century of losing does to you) and refuse to vote for anything that honors a White Sox player?

WHO’S TO SAY!?! Although it should be noted that the general concept of the Thome Highway was already in a separate measure the Senate considered – one sponsored by state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap. He being the Republican nominee to replace Aaron Schock in Congress.

Does anyone think Chief Wahoo looks better in bronze than Old English "Sox"
I doubt he wants to have his final Springfield act be a dissing of Thome’s reputation. That could cost him big-time in the Sept. 10 Election Day.

Not that this measure was meant to honor Chicago in any way. Thome is a Peoria-area native who graduated from a Bartonville high school and played baseball briefly for Illinois Central College before signing with the Cleveland Indians organization where he played a significant portion of his career.

600 home runs not enough for Hall?
Which means, sadly enough, that if Thome’s 600-plus home runs is good enough to get him into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., someday, his bronze plaque likely will depict him in a cap bearing that ridiculous-looking “Chief Wahoo” head instead of the Old English “Sox” logo.

IF YOU THINK I’m kidding that 600 home runs isn’t enough for recognition, keep in mind that Sammy Sosa’s Chicago Cubbie glory days are no longer considered Hall of Fame-worthy, even though he also achieved that immortal standard.

But even if Thome doesn’t make it, he now will be able to say he has a highway named in his honor in his hometown. It may even be an excuse for White Sox fans to find an excuse to visit the city – if only to get their pictures taken with a Thome Highway sign in the background.

Thus far, Thome seems to have a reputation for being a ballplayer who didn’t use anabolic steroids to bolster his strength and baseball career.

Unlike people like Sosa and Mark McGwire, the one-time St. Louis Cardinals star who back after his 1998 stretch of 70 home runs that season had the interstate highway that leads from Illinois into downtown St. Louis named in his honor.

THAT IS INTERSTATE 70 (Get it!), and I remember when St. Louis officials were tickled pink (the same color that Cardinals uniforms turn once they fade due to age and/or poor laundering) to have the McGwire Highway.

No longer worthy of a highway in St. Louis
But the steroid stories connected to McGwire caused that highway to become the “Mark Twain Highway” back in 2010.

It would seem that the “Thome Highway” will be longer-lasting in Illinois.


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