- Category : Baseball Player
- Type : PE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 2
Frank Edward Thomas, Jr. (born May 27, 1968) is a retired American professional baseball player. A designated hitter and first baseman, Thomas became one of baseball's biggest stars in the 1990s. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson nicknamed Thomas "The Big Hurt" in the 1992 season. Thomas was known for his menacing home run power; he routinely swung a rusted piece of rebar that he reportedly found during a renovation project in Old Comiskey Park in the on-deck circle.
Thomas played college baseball and college football for the Auburn Tigers of Auburn University. He retired February 12, 2010. Playing in Major League Baseball, Thomas played for the Chicago White Sox (1990–2005), Oakland Athletics (2006, 2008), and Toronto Blue Jays (2007–2008). He is a five-time All-Star (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997), four-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1991, 1993, 1994, 2000), and two-time AL MVP (1993, 1994). He won the AL batting title in 1997, was named AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2000, and his uniform number was retired by the White Sox. He is now a commentator for Comcast SportsNet White Sox broadcasts.
Early life and career
Thomas was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, and attended Columbus High School, where he was a standout in both football and baseball. As a Columbus High School sophomore he hit cleanup for a baseball team that won a state championship. As a senior he hit .440 for the baseball team, was named an All-State tight end with the football team, and played forward with the basketball team. He wanted desperately to win a contract to play professional baseball, but was not drafted in the 1986 amateur draft.
"I was shocked and sad," Thomas recalled in the Chicago Tribune. "I saw a lot of guys I played against get drafted, and I knew they couldn't do what I could do. But I've had people all my life saying you can't do this, you can't do that. It scars you. No matter how well I've done. People have misunderstood me for some reason. I was always one of the most competitive kids around."
In the autumn of 1986, Thomas accepted a scholarship to play football at Auburn University. His love of baseball drew him to the Auburn baseball team, where the coach immediately recognized his potential. "We loved him," Auburn baseball coach Hal Baird told Sports Illustrated. "He was fun to be around—always smiling, always bright-eyed." He was also a deadly hitter, posting a .359 batting average and leading the Tigers in runs batted in as a freshman. During the summer of 1987 he played for the U.S. Pan American Team, earning a spot on the final roster that would compete in the Pan American Games. The Games coincided with the beginning of football practice back at Auburn, so he left the Pan Am team and returned to college—only to be injured twice in early season football games.
Despite the injury that could have jeopardized his football scholarship, Auburn continued his funding and baseball became his sole sport. He won consideration for the U.S. National Team – preparing for the 1988 Summer Olympics – but he was cut from the final squad. By the end of his junior baseball season he had hit 19 home runs, 19 doubles, and batted .403 with a slugging percentage of .801. He earned Southeastern Conference MVP honors his senior year. Thomas concluded his college career with 49 home runs, a school record.
The Chicago White Sox selected Thomas with the seventh pick in the first round of the June 1989 Major League Baseball Draft.
Thomas is the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, and 20 home runs (from 1991 to 1997). The only other player to have more than five consecutive seasons accomplishing this feat was Ted Williams with six. This accomplishment is even more remarkable considering that he played only 113 games in 1994, due to the strike. Thomas had less success defensively at first base during the early part of his career. To keep his bat in the lineup every day, he transitioned mid-career to designated hitter.
There are only five other players in history who have both hit more home runs and have a higher career batting average than Thomas: Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Manny Ramirez, and Willie Mays.
Chicago White Sox (1990–2005)
Early years (1990–96)
Thomas made his major league debut on August 2, 1990 against the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. He went hitless, going 0–4, but had an RBI on a fielder's choice which scored Iván Calderón as the White Sox won the game 4–3. On August 28, 1990, Thomas hit the first home run of his career in Minnesota, against the Twins (coincidentally, he would hit his 500th career home run at the Metrodome). He hit the home run off pitcher Gary Wayne in the top of the ninth as his team lost 12–6.
In his first full season, Thomas established himself as a multi-talented hitter, combining power with hitting for average, drawing walks, and driving in runs. In 1991, Thomas finished third in MVP voting with a .318 batting average, 32 home runs, 109 runs batted in as well as walking 138 times. He won the first of four Silver Slugger awards, and led the league in on-base percentage, something he would accomplish four times throughout his career.
In 1993, Thomas batted .317 with a club-record 41 homers, plus 128 RBI, 106 runs scored, and 112 walks. He joined a quartet of Hall-of-Famers (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams) as the only players in baseball history to eclipse .300 with more than 20 homers and more than 100 RBI, runs, and walks in three straight seasons. On the back of this historical offensive output, Thomas collected all 28 votes from baseball writers for a unanimous American League Most Valuable Player award, the first by a White Sox since Dick Allen in 1972, while leading the White Sox to their first AL West crown in 10 years. At the time, Bill James projected career statistics of 480 homers and a .311 lifetime average. Then manager Gene Lamont was laudatory of Thomas' skills. "I've only seen him two years now, but I'm convinced that there isn't a pitch he can't hit." White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson echoed the praise, "In my 30 years in the game, I've never seen anyone like Big Hurt (Thomas). In another 30 years, we may be talking about Frank Thomas in the same way we talk about Ted Williams."
In 1994, playing just 113 games due to a strike-shortened season, Thomas again put up huge offensive numbers recording 38 homers, 101 RBIs, batted .353, and led the league in runs scored (106), walks (109), and slugging percentage, at a whopping .729 slugging percentage. Thomas handily won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. Thomas is one of only three first basemen in history to win consecutive Most Valuable Player awards in the major leagues (Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx, 1932–1933, and former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols, 2008–2009, are the others).
The 1994 shortened season was due to a players' strike, and perhaps no one felt the sting of the strike more than Thomas, who stood poised to achieve one of baseball's most prestigious honors: the Triple Crown. Not since 1967 had any player finished the regular season first in average, home runs, and runs batted in. Thomas had recorded 32 home runs at the All-Star break, and was contending for the honor when the strike occurred. Pressed by the media to comment on his accomplishments—and his future—Thomas downplayed his own significance, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I'm not into being known as the best by fans or the media. I care how I'm perceived by my peers. I can settle for the label 'one of the best' because that means you're considered an elite player."
Thomas would continue putting up significant well-rounded offensive numbers, always placing in the top finishers in all major offensive categories, though rarely leading in any one stat. In 1995, he hit .308 with 40 homers and 111 RBI, and in 1996, he hit .349 with 40 home runs and 134 RBI, and became an All-Star for the fourth time, while finishing 8th in MVP voting.
Later years (1997–2005)
From 1991–1997, Thomas finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting every year. In 1997, Thomas won the batting title and finished third in MVP voting. However, due in part to personal strife off the field, his offensive production wavered during the next two seasons. Thomas rebounded with force in 2000 when he hit .328 with a career-high 43 homers and 143 runs batted in. Thomas finished second in MVP voting that season, behind Jason Giambi of the Oakland Athletics. Thomas also won the 2000 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. But this would not mean an end to the rocky path he would follow later in his career.
In 2001, after his father died, Thomas also announced during the same week that he would undergo season ending surgery after an MRI revealed a triceps tear in his right arm. Thomas was distraught from the combined impact of both personal and professional strife. "This is the worst week of my life," he said during a press conference in Chicago. "First I lose my father, then come back and find out I'm lost for the season." He only played in 20 games that year.
He rebounded from his injury and played in 148 games in 2002, but he just hit .252, a career-low for Thomas for a complete season, and he would never again approach a .300 batting average. But his power and ability to get on base and drive in runs were still in his offensive arsenal. Always a patient hitter, Thomas would lead the American League in walks four times. Through the end of the 2006 season, Thomas was second among all active players in walks and third in on-base percentage, and ranked among the top 20 lifetime in both categories.
Thomas had another solid season in 2003. He tied for second in the American League in home runs (42), and was in the league's top ten in walks, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging, as he led the major leagues in fly ball percentage (54.9%). In 2005, Thomas again suffered injury, but hit 12 home runs in 105 at-bats over 35 games, demonstrating his continued power at the plate. Adding together 2004 and 2005, he had fewer than 350 total at-bats because of injuries, but hit 30 home runs and drew 80 walks. As a member of the White Sox, Thomas and teammate Magglio Ordóñez tied a major league record for back-to-back homers, with six in one season.
2005 World Series
In 2005, manager Ozzie Guillen led the White Sox to a World Series victory, their first in 88 years. Thomas was not on the post-season roster of the World Series-winning 2005 White Sox team due to injury, but the team honored his perennial contributions to the franchise during Game 1 of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox. Thomas was chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. "What a feeling," Thomas said. "Standing O all around the place. People really cheering me. I had tears in my eyes. To really know the fans cared that much about me – it was a great feeling. One of my proudest moments in the game." The White Sox honored him by giving him a World Series Ring for his contributions to the franchise.
Thomas established several White Sox batting records, including all-time leader in runs scored (1,327), home runs (448), doubles (447), RBI (1,465), extra-base hits (906), walks (1,466), total bases (3,949), slugging percentage (.568), and on-base percentage (.427). At the time he left the team, his 448 home runs were more than twice as many as any other individual player had hit for the White Sox in their 104-year history.
Despite his perennial offensive production and established fan base in Chicago, the White Sox elected to release Thomas in 2005. Thomas later expressed disappointment with how his 16-year tenure with the White Sox was ended, saying that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf did not call him to tell him he wasn’t coming back. He also said that he and Kenny Williams did not see eye-to-eye after Williams became GM following the 2000 season. At the time, Thomas was unhappy that his next-to-last deal with the White Sox contained a "diminished skills" clause. He said the White Sox should have traded him after the playoffs that season.
"I've got a lot of respect for Jerry Reinsdorf, I do. But I really thought, the relationship we had over the last 16 years, he would have picked up the phone to say, 'Big guy, we're moving forward. We're going somewhere different. We don't know your situation or what's going to happen.' I can live with that, I really can," Thomas said. "But treating me like some passing-by-player. I've got no respect for that." Thomas said he was not bitter or angry and had joined the A's with an open mind.
On December 7, 2005, Thomas signed with the Oakland Athletics to a one year, $500,000 deal with incentives on January 25, 2006.
Oakland Athletics (2006)
The Athletics installed Thomas as their everyday DH. He started the season slowly, but ended the season as the team leader in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He provided a powerful right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup for the division-leading Athletics. He had a stretch where he hit a home run in six straight games.
On May 22, 2006, Thomas homered twice in his first game against his former team. Before Thomas came up to lead off the 2nd inning, a musical montage played on the Jumbotron at U.S. Cellular Field, paying tribute to Thomas's legacy with the White Sox. He was cheered in his introduction by the White Sox fans. Moments later, when he hit his first home run of the night to put his former team behind in the score 1–0, the Chicago crowd gave Thomas a standing ovation.
Thomas rejuvenated his career playing with the Athletics, placing fifth in the American League with 39 HRs and eighth with 114 RBI. He also was key to the team's stretch drive to the playoffs: for the week ending September 10, he was the American League's player of the week after hitting .462 with five homers and 13 RBI. The 2006 post season provided Thomas the opportunity to play in his first postseason games since 2000 since he missed the 2005 playoffs with an injury, when the Athletics clinched the American League West title, defeating the Seattle Mariners 12–3 on September 26. During the A's first playoff game on October 3, Thomas hit two solo home runs, leading the A's to a 3–2 win over the Minnesota Twins. His performance during the opening playoff game earned Thomas the distinction of being the oldest player to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game. He led the A's to an ALDS victory, going 5 for 10 with 2 home runs.
On October 7, 2006, he finished behind Jim Thome, his replacement as the Chicago White Sox's DH, in the voting for the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. He was awarded the AL players choice award for Comeback Player. He finished 4th in the vote for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Toronto Blue Jays (2007–08)
Frank Thomas getting a hit during Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida
On November 16, 2006 Thomas signed a 2-year, $18 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. According to BlueJays.com, Thomas was scheduled to make $1 million (US) in the first season (with a $9.12 million signing bonus) and $8 million in the next season. The contract included an option for 2009 contingent on his reaching 1,050 plate appearances over the next two seasons or 525 plate appearances in the second year of the contract.
On June 17, 2007, Thomas hit his 496th career home run, giving him his 244th home run as a DH, breaking the record previously held by Edgar Martínez.
On June 28, 2007, Thomas hit the 500th home run of his career, becoming the 21st player in the history of Major League Baseball to do so. It was a three-run shot off Minnesota's Carlos Silva (Thomas' 500th home run came on the same day Craig Biggio hit his 3,000th career hit).
On September 17, 2007, Thomas hit three home runs in his team's 6–1 win over the Boston Red Sox. It was the second time in his career that Thomas hit three home runs in a game, the first time also against the Red Sox, on September 15, 1996, in a Chicago White Sox loss. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield started both games for the Red Sox, and gave up five of the six home runs Thomas hit, including all three in the first game.
During spring training in 2008, Thomas expressed his confidence about his team's chances for the upcoming season. Thomas hit his first home run of the season against the Red Sox on April 5, in a 10–2 Blue Jays win. The following day, with the bases loaded and a 2–2 tie, Thomas hit a grand slam off Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, leading the Jays to a 7–4 victory. On April 19, before a game against the Detroit Tigers, manager John Gibbons benched Thomas. Thomas expressed his frustration about the decision, and vowed that his career would "not end like this."
Return to Oakland (2008)
On April 20, 2008, the Blue Jays released Thomas. Four days later, the Oakland Athletics and Thomas agreed to terms for his return. In his final game with the Athletics on August 29, he went 2 for 4. After playing 55 games with Oakland due to time on the disabled list, Thomas hit 5 more home runs to bring his career total to 521, while posting a .263 batting average. On October 31, 2008 he became a free agent. Thomas officially retired on February 11, 2010, and will be eligible for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Frank Thomas's number 35 was retired by the Chicago White Sox in 2010.
On February 12, 2010, Thomas signed a one day contract with the Chicago White Sox then he announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after not playing in the 2009 season. During the same press conference, the Chicago White Sox, for whom he played 16 seasons (1990–2005), announced that they would retire his No. 35 on August 29, 2010.
The Chicago White Sox announced that they would honor Frank with a life size bronze statue. It was unveiled on Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm CDT, on the outfield concourse at U.S. Cellular Field. It is the 8th statue on the outfield concourse.