CLEVELAND -- Four new plaques will soon be on display in Heritage Park, honoring the newest members of the Indians Hall of Fame. There is no shortage of accomplishments among the inductees, a quartet well-deserving of enshrinement by a ballclub with more than a century's worth of history.
Jim Thome: The Indians' all-time home run king. Albert Belle: The only player in baseball history to achieve a season consisting of 50 home runs and 50 doubles. Frank Robinson: The first African-American manager in baseball history. Charlie Jamieson: A member of the 1920 World Series champions.
Welcome to the Indians Hall of Fame.
Cleveland announced on Friday that Thome, Belle, Robinson and Jamieson will be honored as the 2016 Hall of Fame class in a ceremony July 30 before the Tribe's game against the A's at Progressive Field. The Indians will then have 44 in their team Hall, and this marks the first time since 2007 that the club inducts at least four players in the same season.
"These are four of the all-time great players in our franchise's storied history," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' senior vice president of public affairs. "We're excited to officially recognize their contributions to our franchise and the game of baseball by inducting them into the Indians Hall of Fame."
The Indians will give away a Thome Hall of Fame bobblehead as part of the July 30 festivities.
For Thome, this could be a precursor to enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The former slugger, who belted 612 home runs over the course of a 22-year career in the big leagues, will be eligible on the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Hall of Fame ballot in 2018.
"It's special. Humbling," Thome said of being inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame. "You look at the guys that are on that list and you look over the years at 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. It's kind of something you don't ever forget."
Thome's path to stardom had an unlikely beginning. Scouted out of rural Illinois, Thome was selected by the Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 Draft as a skinny third baseman with a big swing. Over time, Thome developed into one of the fiercest left-handed power hitters in baseball, launching a club-record 337 home runs during his time with the Indians.
Thome suited up for the Indians from 1991-2002 and rejoined the team briefly in the second half of the 2011 season. In parts of 13 seasons with Cleveland, Thome hit .287/.414/.566 with a franchise-record 1,008 walks, three All-Star appearances and one Silver Slugger Award. Thome belted a career-high 52 homers in 2002, and then had stints with the Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles.
Thome is one of only six players to have at least 1,500 runs, 1,600 RBIs and 1,700 walks in a career, joining Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Mel Ott and Barry Bonds. Thome, Ruth and Bonds are the only players in that class to have at least 600 home runs.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said it was an honor to play with Thome during the 2011 season.
"He's a stud. The guy was awesome," Kipnis said. "Whether you've known him for 10 years or one day, he talks to you with the utmost respect, with charisma. ... I used to point my bat out just like he did in high school. He's one of the guys that, when you're younger, you kind of imitate people's swings that you see, and he was one of my guys. And then I got to bat next to him in the lineup. So, it was a cool experience for me."
Selected in the second round of the 1987 Draft by Cleveland, Belle tormented opposing pitchers for parts of eight seasons with the Indians. He slugged 242 home runs (second to Thome in club history) and was a four-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger recipient with the Tribe. Belle had 50 homers and 52 doubles in 1995, making him the lone player in baseball history to enjoy a 50/50 season.
Belle finished in the top three in the American League in Most Valuable Player Award voting three times with Cleveland, ending as the runner-up to Mo Vaughn for the annual award in 1995. The right-handed hitter played 12 years total in the Majors with stints with the White Sox and Orioles after his time with Cleveland.
Thome said he hopes Belle attends the ceremony in July.
"It would be wonderful," Thome said. "I think it would be great for him, personally. But, I [also] think it'd be great for the city."
Robinson spent the final three seasons of 21-year Major League playing career with the Indians, belting 586 home runs in a Hall of Fame career. Robinson was best known in Cleveland for breaking baseball's managerial color barrier. He managed Cleveland from 1974-76, becoming the first African-American manager in history and embarking on a 17-year managing career that saw him guide teams to 1,065 victories.
Before Robinson, Cleveland also signed the first African-American player in American League history when the team brought Larry Doby into the fold in 1947. Doby and Thome are currently honored with statues, along with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, outside Gate C at Progressive Field.
Jamieson suited up for Cleveland from 1919-32 and set the franchise's single-season record for singles with 172 in 1923. He ranks fourth in team history with 942 runs and fifth with 1,753 hits, while posting a .316 average with the Indians as part of his 18-year career. Jamieson also hit .333 in Cleveland's six-game triumph over the Brooklyn Robins in the 1920 World Series.
"I think it's a great day for the organization," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, "to recognize four members of the organization who had such a great impact on the franchise. I've been fortunate enough to get to know Jim fairly well over the last 15 or so years, and there's not a person more deserving of the highest honor in sports.
"For us, it's a way of recognizing his place within the Indians Hall of Fame and I anxiously look forward to the day when he's also elected to Cooperstown."