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Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas

Position(s):
1B, DH
Nicknames:
Big Hurt
Born:
May 27, 1968
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 5"
Weight:
240 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-02-1990 with CHA
Allstar Selections:
1991 SS, 1993 ML, 1993 MVP, 1993 SS, 1994 MVP, 1994 SS, 2000 SS

One of the most feared hitters of his time, Frank Thomas intimidated opposing pitchers with his mere presence in the batter's box.  As former teammate Nick Swisher said, "The guy causes fear just standing at the on-deck circle."  Standing 6'5" and weighing 275 pounds, Thomas struck fear into the hearts of the opposition with his size and extraordinary ability to hit a baseball, both of which eventually earned him the nickname, The Big Hurt.  Yet, in spite of his great size and strength, Thomas was more than just a slugger.  Possessing tremendous discipline at the plate, the likely future Hall of Famer consistently drew more than 100 bases on balls and batted well over .300 during the first half of his career, before injuries began to somewhat diminish his playing time and offensive production his last several seasons.  Thomas was particularly effective from 1991 to 1997, a period during which he won two Most Valuable Player Awards and became the only player in baseball history to bat  over .300, hit more than 20 home runs, and surpass 100 RBIs, 100 runs scored, and 100 walks in seven consecutive seasons.  He also established himself as one of only four players to drive in at least 100 runs in his first seven years in the big leagues.  

Biography:

Born in Columbus, Georgia on May 27, 1968, Frank Edward Thomas knew at an early age that he wanted to eventually become a professional baseball player.  The fifth of six children, Thomas received encouragement from his parents and older siblings to develop his gift for athletics while growing up in Columbus.  Although his parents never pushed him into sports, they were well aware of their son's athletic prowess, as well as his desire to pursue a career in baseball.  Thomas later told the Chicago Tribune, "When I was a kid, probably around 12, I already knew I wanted to be a player.  So I was just telling my parents what I wanted, and I followed my dream, and I worked hard enough to get it.  A lot of people nowadays won't dedicate themselves like that...I was a little different."

Thomas's athletic skills earned him a scholarship to The Brookstone School, a private college preparatory institution in his hometown.  However, he opted to transfer to Columbus High School after his third year, due to the latter's more competitive sports program.  After starring for two years at first base on the baseball team, tight end on the football squad, and forward on the basketball team, Thomas accepted a scholarship to play football at Auburn University.  

Thomas spent his early days at Auburn concentrating primarily on football, but his love for the national pastime gradually drew him onto the baseball diamond as well.  After suffering two injuries in early season football games as a sophomore, Thomas turned his sole attention towards baseball, eventually ending his college career with a school-record 49 home runs. Thomas's outstanding performance at Auburn prompted the Chicago White Sox to select him with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 1989 Major League Baseball Draft.       

Thomas spent only one year in the minor leagues before earning a promotion to the White Sox in August of 1990.  He spent the final two months of the campaign with the team, displaying from the start his tremendous offensive skills.  In 60 games, Thomas batted .330, hit seven home runs, drove in 31 runs, and drew 44 bases on balls.

Although he also filled in at first base, Thomas spent much of the following season serving as Chicago's designated hitter.  He ended his first full year in the majors with 32 home runs, 109 runs batted in, 104 runs scored, a .318 batting average, and a league-leading 138 walks and .453 on-base percentage, en route to earning a third-place finish in the league MVP voting.

Thomas became Chicago's starting first baseman in 1992, and he responded with another outstanding season.  In addition to hitting 24 homers, driving in 115 runs, scoring 108 others, and batting .323, he led the A.L. with 46 doubles, 122 walks, and a .439 on-base percentage.  He followed that up by leading the White Sox to the A.L. West title in 1993 with 41 home runs, 128 runs batted in, 106 runs scored, and a .317 batting average, to earn league MVP honors.  

Thomas captured his second consecutive A.L. MVP Award in 1994, hitting 38 homers, knocking in 101 runs, batting .353, and topping the circuit with 106 runs scored, 109 walks, a .487 on-base percentage, and a .729 slugging percentage during the strike-shortened campaign.  After another very solid year in 1995, Thomas turned in two spectacular campaigns in succession.  He hit 40 home runs, drove in 134 runs, scored 110 others, batted .349, and compiled a .459 on-base percentage in 1996.  Thomas scored another 110 runs the following year, while also hitting 35 homers, knocking in 125 runs, and leading the league with a .347 batting average and a .456 on-base percentage, en route to earning a third-place finish in the league MVP balloting.

The consistently high level at which Thomas performed throughout the period caused teammate Tim Raines to proclaim, "I've played with a lot of great players, and I've played against a lot, and he's the best I ever saw."

As exceptional as Thomas was as a hitter his first several years in the league, he proved to be something of a liability in the field.  Displaying limited range and a lack of dexterity on defense, Thomas was among the league's worst fielding first basemen, prompting the White Sox to begin using him more and more as a designated hitter in subsequent seasons.  After splitting his time between first base and DH in 1997, he spent the remainder of his career almost exclusively as a designated hitter.  

As Thomas grew accustomed to his new role, his offensive numbers fell off somewhat over the course of the next two seasons.  He remained a productive hitter both years, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 109 runs in 1998, and batting .305 the following season.  But Thomas fell below the .300-mark for the first time in his career in 1998, hitting only .265.  And, although he raised his batting average 40 points the following year, he hit just 15 homers and knocked in only 77 runs.  Thomas returned to top form, though, in 2000, batting .328 and establishing career highs with 43 home runs, 143 runs batted in, and 115 runs scored, en route to earning the A.L. Comeback Player of the Year Award and a second-place finish in the league MVP voting.   

Thomas then suffered through a horrific 2001 campaign during which he not only lost his father, but, also, appeared in only 20 games due to a triceps tear in his right arm that required season-ending surgery.  He returned to the team the following year and combined to hit 70 home runs and drive in 197 runs over the course of the next two seasons.  But, even though Thomas remained an extremely productive hitter, he never again batted close to .300.

Injuries limited Thomas to a combined total of only 108 games in 2004 and 2005, prompting the White Sox to make no effort to re-sign him when he became a free agent prior to 2006.  After signing with the Oakland A's, Thomas exchanged harsh words with Chicago General Manager Kenny Williams, with whom he had never seen eye-to-eye.

Thomas suggested he deserved to be treated better, and he also expressed dissatisfaction with the "diminished skills" clause Williams inserted into his contract after the 2002 season.

Thomas had a big year in Oakland, helping the A's advance to the postseason by hitting 39 home runs and knocking in 114 runs.  He signed another free-agent deal at the end of the campaign, this time with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Thomas had his last productive year with the Blue Jays in 2007, before injuries and a lack of offensive production severely limited his playing time the following year.  After sitting out the entire 2009 campaign due to injury, Thomas formally announced his retirement on February 12, 2010.  He ended his career with 521 home runs, 1,704 runs batted in, 1,494 runs scored, 2,468 hits, 1,667 walks, a .301 batting average, and a .419 on-base percentage.  He is one of only four players in baseball history (Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, and Ted Williams are the others) to have a batting average in excess of .300, while also surpassing 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs scored, and 1,500 walks during their careers.  Thomas topped 40 homers five times, knocked in more than 100 runs 11 times, scored more than 100 runs nine times, batted over .300 on ten separate occasions, and compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 in 11 different seasons.  He led the league in batting average, runs scored, doubles, and slugging percentage once each, and he topped the circuit in walks and on-base percentage four times each.  Thomas appeared in five All-Star games, and, in addition to winning two Most Valuable Player Awards, he finished in the top 10 in the voting seven other times.    

Since his retirement, Thomas has worked as an analyst for Comcast Sportsnet Chicago during its post-game White Sox telecasts.  

A staunch proponent of drug testing in professional baseball, Thomas was one of the few major leaguers who took a definitive stance on the subject of steroids long before the commissioner's office finally instituted a drug testing policy.  After hitting his 500th home run, Thomas stated, "It means a lot to me because I did it the right way."  

Thomas also spoke openly about the impact steroid-users had on his own career, suggesting, "I do feel I was overshadowed by some of those guys...I had a diminished-skills clause written in after I hit 29 home runs and drove in 92 runs, and I think those (steroid-aided home run hitters) are partly to blame." 

 

 

 

 

By Bob_Cohen

 
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Tagged:
AL MVP 1992, AL MVP 1994, Auburn University, Baseball History, Big Hurt, Chicago White Sox, Frank Thomas, Members of the 500 Home Run Club, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, firstbase

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