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08/30/07 9:17 PM ET

Thome launches 495th career homer

Slugger now only five shy of exclusive 500-home run club

ARLINGTON -- Jim Thome moved another step closer to baseball's most elite power-hitting fraternity Thursday.

The White Sox designated hitter smacked career home run No. 495, a solo shot with two out in the first inning off Texas Rangers right-hander Kevin Millwood. The 422-foot blast off an 0-1 fastball landed in the right-field seats on a muggy night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It was Thome's second career homer off Millwood.

Thome, who turned 37 on Monday, is on the verge of becoming just the 23rd member of baseball's exclusive 500-home run club. The next player ahead of Thome on the all-time list is his former Cleveland Indians teammate Eddie Murray, with 504.

"The guys that are in that club, that makes it hard not to think about it, you know?" Thome said before the game. "All the guys that are in it are tremendous players.

"For me, right now, I'm just trying to stay healthy and not get too wrapped up into it. Just make sure you go out and play, and whatever happens is going to happen, through staying healthy. It's a really neat thing, but as it gets closer, a lot of people remind you."

Thursday's first-inning homer was Thome's fifth in his last 12 games. In Tuesday's series opener in Texas, he homered to move past Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff on the career homer list.

"My 400th was big," Thome recalled. "But from 390 to 400 is a little different than from 490 to this number. It gets talked about a lot more."

Asked which member of the 500 club will mean the most for him to be associated with, Thome couldn't narrow the field to one.

"I played with Eddie Murray in Cleveland, and I remember when Eddie was chasing 3,000 hits and 500 homers," Thome said. "I was fortunate to see his 3,000th hit, and I watched his 500th on TV. But for me, Mickey Mantle, even though I never got to watch him play ... everybody loved Mickey Mantle.

"Then there's Reggie [Jackson], Harmon Killebrew, and then you jump up into what Babe Ruth and Willie Mays and those guys did, which is unheard of. All the tremendous old-time players, it kind of puts it into perspective. Somebody called me the other day and told me I had tied Lou Gehrig. And as it's going on, and your career is going on, it really makes you stop and think, 'Wow.' I mean, what a great name he's been for the game. And to tie a guy like that is just very special."

Thome admitted he is trying to retrieve as many mementos as possible to one day pass down to his daughter and the unborn son he and wife Andrea are expecting in November.

"The one thing I've tried to do is save all the balls from when I tie a guy, to remember those guys," Thome said. "So then, in 15 or 20 years maybe, my kids can remember, 'Hey, my dad tied this guy.'

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.