Looking Out for Jim Thome

Jim Thome is only one swing away from No. 500, and a lot of people in baseball couldn’t be happier. He is one of the class acts in the game, and he was certainly one of the most generous ballplayers that we interviewed for Haunted Baseball. Jim sat down with Mickey and I on three separate occasions to share his memories of the deeply respected Cleveland Indians trainer Jimmy Warfield, who passed away during the 2002 season. He shared how the trainer saved a seat for him on the team bus after the slugger collected his first and second Major League hits on September 4, 1991. He also remembers attending Ohio State football games with Warfield during the offseason. He was most impressed with Warfield’s earnestness and how he would treat all people he met–ballplayers and doormen alike–with kindness and dignity. He says Warfield molded him and taught him “how to be a professional.” “The Bird and Jim Thome” is a chapter in Haunted Baseball that describes Thome’s relationship with Warfield and the impact the late-trainer had on others. It chronicles a stretch of games after Warfield had passed on where players felt that Warfield had returned to the field in the form of a gull. “The bird always hung out,” Omar Vizquel told us. “Always was like on a lookout. So you wonder if that is a message from Jimmy Warfield, or if that was Jimmy Warfield’s ghost walking around.” Vizquel, C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Sandy Alomar Jr, Milton Bradley, Matt Lawton, Dustan Mohr and dozens of other players and personnel wondered if the lone gull that lingered on the field and couldn’t be shoo-ed away from the game action wasn’t Warfield watching over the team he had cared for. Perhaps it was because the bird often stood only a few yards away from Thome at third base. Or that the bird flew off into the night during a player memorial service at Progressive Field and was said to never have returned to the field again. Of all the “ghost” stories that we researched for our book, this was certainly one of our favorites. For many years after Warfield’s passing Jim Thome wore the initials “JW” stitched under the tongue of his cleats. Every year he hosts the Thome/Warfield Charity golf tournament which raises money for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. And no doubt memories of Warfield will run through Thome’s mind when he crushes No. 500.

I will be signing copies of “Haunted Baseball” in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania(Pittsburgh Oct 19; Cleveland Oct 20; North Canton, OH Oct 20; and Erie, PA Oct 21). Mickey will also be appearing that week in Minneapolis (Oct 17), Bronx, NY (Oct 20) and Hadley, MA (Oct 21). For our full events calendar, drop by our website www.hauntedbaseball.com.

Halloween/Postseason Express

Just wanted to let fans know that “Haunted Baseball” is now available. Over a two year period, my co-author Mickey Bradley and I interviewed over 800 current and former major leaguers, and a few hundred more stadium workers and fans, and recorded their ghost stories and superstitions from ballparks, spring training sites, visiting team hotels and other venues. Among the highlights: Dodger Stadium, where late night stadium workers report apparitions on the field and eerie late night sounds; Yankee Stadium, where Derek Jeter, A-Rod and many visiting players believe the home team gets a little help from the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio; Fenway Park, home to some Ruthian ghostly tales; Wrigley Field, the late-Charlie Grimm’s current stomping grounds; Petco Park, which keeps the overnight cleaning crew on edge; and Rogers Centre, where Miguel Batista had a Native American flute knocked from his hands. There are Babe Ruth sightings on a storied ballfield in St Pete. CC Sabathia shares the story of a spooky elevator ride in San Fran. Coco Crisp and Ellis Burks also chime in. Johnny Damon shares a fun story about being pinned down by a ghost. You can read more on our website http://www.hauntedbaseball.com. Hope you enjoy the book.