Fans plead 'Jimmy, stay with us'


CLEVELAND (AP) -- Jim Thome spent the final three innings
watching Sunday's game from the Indians' bullpen in center field.

Just in case he never comes back.

Thome singled home the go-ahead run in his last at-bat this
season -- and maybe his final one for Cleveland -- to lead the
Indians over the Kansas City Royals 7-3 Sunday.

It was a day of emotional goodbyes at Jacobs Field.

Charles Nagy's career in Cleveland came to an end with the
pitcher mulling retirement, and third baseman Travis Fryman ended
his 13-year career by getting a hit in his final at-bat.

Indians fans can only hope they haven't seen Thome, a
free-agent-to-be, for the last time.

"It really was a farewell day here,'' said Thome, who received
a standing ovation every time he came out of the dugout. "The fans
were just so fantastic. But it didn't take a day like this for me
to recognize that. I've known it for a long, long time.''

Fryman hit a two-run double in the seventh inning, the final
swing of the five-time All-Star's career.

While he was in the field in the sixth inning, Fryman said he
prayed that his last at-bat would be a good one.

"I just wanted one halfway decent swing,'' said Fryman, who
pulled his double down the third-base line. "I thought that was
fitting. That figures. I came up pulling the ball over there, and
that's how I finished it.''

The Royals (62-100) joined Detroit and Tampa Bay (both (55-106)
and Milwaukee (56-106) as 100-game losers in 2002, marking the
first time in major league history that four teams have lost 100
games in the same season.

"It's very disappointing to lose 100,'' said Carlos Beltran,
who hit his 29th homer. "We have more talent than that.''

Thome, eligible for free agency after the World Series, hit an
RBI single in the sixth that put the Indians ahead 3-2. After
picking up his 500th career RBI at the Jake, the popular first
baseman was lifted for a pinch-runner.

Thome was given a long ovation by Indians fans dreading the
thought of seeing the 32-year-old play anywhere else.

Cleveland will pursue Thome as a free agent, but GM Mark Shapiro
said the club will not overspend to keep its career home run

"The top priority is to sign Jim Thome,'' shortstop Omar
Vizquel said. "Mark has his work cut out and he should do
everything possible to bring him back. Jim Thome is a great friend,
adviser and teammate. And, he lets his bat do the talking.''

Kansas City's Mike Sweeney sat out with a bruised left shin and
finished with a .340 batting average -- nine points behind Boston's
Manny Ramirez, who won the AL title.

Jaret Wright (2-3), whose $6 million option for 2003 won't be
picked up by the Indians, pitched one inning for the win.

Rookies Victor Martinez and Earl Snyder each hit their first
homers for the Indians (74-88), whose turbulent season ended with a
four-game winning streak.

The Indians are heading into an offseason that could be just as

Shapiro must first decide if interim manager Joel Skinner should
be given the full-time job.

And then there's Thome's situation.

Thome found out just how popular he is with Indians fans before
the game.

As part of Fan Appreciation Day, Cleveland's players greeted
fans as they came through the gates, handing each one a souvenir
comic book as they entered.

Needless to say, Thome's turnstile was the busiest.

"Jimmy, it's been a great ride,'' Joe Stacklin told Thome as he
shook the first baseman's hand. "Stay with us, please.''

Thome, who finished with a club-record 52 homers, was moved by
all the well-wishers.

"That was awesome,'' he said. "The fans have always been great
to me here.''

With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, Thome gave Indians fans
one more thrill.

He ripped an RBI single off Scott Mullen (4-5) to right. After
shaking hands with Royals first baseman, Thome was lifted for Ben
Broussard, one of the candidates to replace Thome permanently if
the Indians don't re-sign him.

Later, Thome wandered out to the Indians' bullpen -- where many
of his 334 career homers have landed. He wanted to spend what could
be his last moments as an Indian there with Nagy.

"It's a different view,'' Thome said. "Charlie looked up, and
he couldn't believe it was me. And then one of the coaches called
and said, 'Get Thome up.'''

Thome finished the season batting .304 with 52 homers and 118
RBI. He also led the AL in walks (122), slugging percentage
(.677), home batting average (.350) and was second in on-base
percentage (.445).

Game notes
Nagy coached first in the first. "I lobbied for left
field,'' said Nagy, won 129 games for Cleveland, but has no
cartilage in his right elbow and may retire. ... Sweeney's .340 is
the second-highest average in Royals' history, behind George
Brett's .390 in 1980. ... Rich Dauer, the Kansas City Royals'
third-base coach the past six seasons, announced Sunday that he is
leaving the organization to spend more time with his family.