Frank Joseph Thomas
- OF, CF, LF, 2B, 3B, 1B, RF
- June 11, 1929
- 6' 3"
- 200 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 8-17-1951 with PIT
A strapping, 6'3" 200-lb slugger, Thomas hit 30 home runs in 1953, his first full ML season with his hometown Pirates, and was considered the successor of Ralph Kiner, who was traded to the Cubs that June. Thomas followed with 11 straight years with double-figure home runs, his best campaign coming in 1958 when he finished second in the NL to Ernie Banks with 35 HR and 109 RBI. That August 16, he hit three HR in a game. A dead-pull hitter who crowded the plate, he smashed more than his share of foul "home runs." He was always willing to bet all comers he could catch their hardest throw barehanded, and he never lost. He was an All-Star outfielder in 1954-55 and was the NL's starting third baseman in the 1958 All-Star Game.
Thomas changed teams eight times between 1959 and 1966. In 1962 he led the expansion Mets with 34 HR and 94 RBI, hitting two homers in each of three consecutive games on the first three days in August. The closest he came to playing for a pennant winner was 1964; that August the Mets traded him to the Phillies, who appeared headed for a championship. But Thomas broke his right thumb in early September, and was ineffective upon his return. The Phillies, meanwhile, made their famous fade into second place. On July 3, 1965 he got into a fight with slugger Richie Allen. Despite hitting a pinch homer in the game, he was immediately placed on waivers.
Thomas signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1947. He debuted with the Pirates in 1951. With the Pirates, he made three All-Star Games, and finished fourth in the voting for Most Valuable Player in 1958, when he batted .281, finished second in the National League to Ernie Banks with 35 home runs, and had 109 RBIs. Thomas appeared on the cover of the July 28, 1958 issue of Sports Illustrated.
In 1959, he was traded by the Pirates with Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton and John Powers to the Cincinnati Redlegs for Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak. Following the season, he was traded by the Redlegs to the Chicago Cubs for Bill Henry, Lou Jackson and Lee Walls. In 1961, he was traded by Cubs to the Milwaukee Braves for Mel Roach.
Thomas was traded by Braves with a player to be named later (Rick Herrscher) to the New York Mets for a player to be named later (Gus Bell) and cash. Despite the team's historically poor inaugural season, Thomas led the expansion Mets with 34 HRs and 94 RBIs. His home run mark would last as a Mets' team record until 1975, when Dave Kingman hit 36.
In 1964, Thomas was traded by the New York Mets to the Philadelphia Phillies for Wayne Graham, Gary Kroll and cash. He was purchased by the Houston Astros from the Phillies in July 1965, but was traded to Braves for a player to be named later (Mickey Sinnerud) in September 1965.
On April 5, 1966, Thomas was released by the Braves. He signed with the Cubs on May 14, 1966, and after recording five plate appearances without a hit, he was released on June 4, 1966.
In a 16-season career, Thomas posted a .266 batting average with 286 home runs and 962 RBIs in 1766 games.
Thomas' entry in The Sporting News' Baseball Register during his playing career contained a reference to the fact that Thomas studied for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church from 1941 through 1946. His physical stature (6'3" and 205 lbs.) was larger than the average player at that time, and one of his nicknames as a player was "The Big Donkey."