Thome blasts 573rd and 574th home runs, passing Killebrew for 10th all-time
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It took the crowd a moment to realize the significance the first time.
The second time, there was no hesitation.
Jim Thome homered in his first two at-bats and made a pair of curtain calls on Saturday afternoon -- tying and then passing Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew for 10th on baseball's all-time home run list in the Twins' 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
"He hit one, huh?" Killebrew told 1500 ESPN's Patrick Reusse shortly after the first blast.
"Good for him. He's a good guy. I talked to Jim quite a bit when I was in spring training. I told him, 'Don't feel bad if you pass me up, because I passed up a lot of guys in my career.'"
Thome drove a 1-0 fastball an estimated 345 feet just inside Target Field's left-field foul pole for home run No. 573 with two outs in the second inning.
Then, with one out in the fourth, Thome hit a first-pitch fastball -- again from Tampa Bay right-hander Wade Davis -- an estimated 424 feet into the bullpen in left center field for No. 574.
Both were solo shots, the latter giving the Twins a 4-1 lead. Thome nearly hit a third homer in the ninth, too, but the ball hit a foot or two below the top of the wall in right-center field.
"Thome had just a wonderful day," Gardenhire said. "It's unfortunate we had to lose the ballgame on a day like that for Jim Thome."
A message played on the videoboard in left-center field as Thome crossed home plate following the first homer, and it wasn't until after Davis' next pitch to Delmon Young that the crowd of 40,852 rose to its feet.
Fans roared from the moment the second homer left Thome's bat, and the game was paused as a taped message from Killebrew played on the videoboard afterward -- a gesture, Thome admitted, that forced him to go back to the clubhouse and regroup emotionally before his next at-bat.
"It's humbling," Thome said. "It's an honor to have a man like that do that. It was really, really cool."
That Thome spent time with Killebrew during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., only added to the moment.
"That's something that will go down in my book as one of the better moments in my career for sure," Thome said. "You might tie a guy, but you really may not have ever met that person. ... To get an opportunity to be with him in spring training -- I mean, he's a legend. He's a legendary person, too. That's what makes it even better."
Thome, who turns 40 next month, has hit his homers for four teams -- the Cleveland Indians (334 from 1991 to 2002), Philadelphia Phillies (96, 2003 to '05), Chicago White Sox (134, 2006 to '09) and the Twins, for whom he's homered 10 times in his first 122 at-bats this season.
"Jim is a credit to baseball, and a credit to the teams he's played for," Killebrew told 1500 ESPN. "I just wish we had gotten him when he went to the White Sox. We might've won a World Series if that had happened."
Barry Bonds sits atop the home-run list with 762. The only other players with more than Thome are: Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey (630), Sammy Sosa (595), Alex Rodriguez (595), Frank Robinson (586) and Mark McGwire (583).
"It's surreal. It's hard to believe," Thome said. "I respect that a lot. It's pretty cool."
Rodriguez and Thome are the only active players in the top 10.