New York City, NY (AP) - One of the sad parts of every season is having to say goodbye. Players leave the game each year, some having made a huge impact on the game that will last forever. This year is no different, as surefire Hall of Famer Jim Thome announced his retirement.
Watching a baseball season without Thome will be very strange next year. Not only was he a prolific home run hitter, but he was just an all around good guy, somebody you just had to cheer for.
"He was a joy to have on my team, that's for sure," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He was a student of the game, it wasn't all muscle. He could hit really good, and even when he didn't get a hold of one, he could knock it out of the park."
Thome leaves the game at sixth all time in career home runs with 619. He hit his 600th this season as a member of the Twins and eventually got traded to the Angels for the second half of the season. The first baseman and designated hitter ended up with 30 home runs and 85 RBI. He'll easily be a first ballot hall of famer.
The other name headlining this year's retirees is Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. He's struggled with some injuries lately, and many people speculated that 2011 would be his last year in the big leagues. He made it official, saying goodbye to the game during a press conference earlier this week. Jones' chances of making the Hall of Fame are less certain. However, he did smack 455 home runs and drove in close to 1,600 runs. It's not first ballot material like Thome, but it may be enough to get him in some day.
Another Hall of Fame candidate ending his time in the game is catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez finished up 2011 in Pittsburgh. He hit .276 with 14 home runs this year in somewhat limited action. For his career, he blasted 323 round-trippers and hit close to .300.
The Yankees/Red Sox rivaly will never be the same, as both knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and catcher Jorge Posada decided to hang up their spikes. Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who is best known for his time in Anaheim with the Angels, also called it quits. His is another border line case for baseball immortality, as he ended up with 436 homers and a .320 lifetime average.
The other notable retirements include 44-year-old Omar Vizquel who was about 150 hits shy of 3,000, reliever Miguel Batista, Jason Giambi and outfielder Jim Edmonds, who was known as much for his bat as his ridiculous catches in the outfield.
We'll start finding out who of this class is heading to Cooperstown in five years.