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Just as Jeter reached hit No. 3,000 in dramatic fashion during a five-hit game last month, Thome arrived at his milestone with flair. His two-run homer in the sixth gave him 599, then he harnessed the power again in that pure left-handed swing, lifting a 2-1 pitch from Daniel Schlereth in the seventh over the fence in left field.
"I wasn't really aware of it. I knew he was close to 600, but I didn't know if that was going to be the one," Schlereth said. "I'm not exactly happy about it, but he's a great player, and I'm a huge fan of his. He did a great thing tonight, and ... I felt kind of awkward, I didn't know whether to clap or what."
By the time Thome touched home, Detroit's fans were well aware of the accomplishment and showed their appreciation. The celebration at the plate included Thome's father, wife and children, but it didn't delay the game much.
"Obviously when you're on the road, the game has to move on," Thome said. "To stop there and cherish that moment -- in the visiting park they give you a standing ovation -- is really cool. Throughout the years, there's been a little bit of heckling here, through the years, for the good. To watch them stand up and cheer is very, very special."
It was perhaps fitting that Thome reached No. 600 in a matchup of AL Central rivals. He hit 334 home runs with Cleveland and 134 with the Chicago White Sox.
Ruth reached No. 600 in 6,921 at-bats. Thome needed 8,167.
Only seven hitters have hit more home runs than the burly Thome: Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa. Thome, of course, still has time to add to his total -- and bolster his Hall of Fame case even more.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't need convincing.
"Certainly that's a Hall of Fame achievement," Leyland said. "Hall of Fame from the get-go. He's just a Hall of Fame guy, and a Hall of Fame player."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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