By Devon POV Mason | Contributor
Frank Thomas was a great player and for his efforts, he’s enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“The Big Hurt” was inducted in his first year of eligibility, as BBWAA voters agreed that Thomas deserved his position in Cooperstown. The two-time American League MVP, (he finished second in 2000 to Jason Giambi, an admitted steroid user), Thomas is also one of only 21 players to achieve baseball’s “Holy Trinity.”
The “Holy Trinity” consists of a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage, and a .500 slugging percentage.
Frank Thomas was simply the most dominant “PURE” hitter of the 1990s. In his first season, 1991, Thomas became the first player since Ted Williams to hit .300 with (32) home runs, (109) RBIs, and (138) walks.
I heard a White Sox season ticket holder once say they planned their concession stand and restroom runs around innings he wasn’t due to come to the plate. He had that effect on the game and its fans.
Frank Thomas should’ve owned “The Windy City” after appearing in a series of Reebok commercials.
But somehow he was never embraced as such.
A huge reason why Thomas’ lofty accomplishments were undervalued had to do with his crosstown rivals Cubs and one Slammin’ Sammy Sosa. Both were stars but Chicago fans loved the charismatic Sosa, a happy showman, who hopped and diddy-bopped around the bases after hitting home runs.
Thomas seemed distant at times. Some even misinterpreted his calm demeanor and all-business approach as surly. And rumor had it, he was unapproachable by teammates.
Not that he could control it, but Thomas played in the PED era. Born big, he played football at Auburn after Bo Jackson, before switching to baseball full time. He put up monster stats while surrounded by drug cheats such as the aforementioned Sosa, Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco.
Thomas is considered a “clean” superstar, but the stain of the entire steroid saga has lead to a situation where players from that era are viewed through a different prism. Even if they were clean. Thomas, however, would be a Cooperstown candidate in any era.
Labor strife also affected Thomas’ best years. Thomas and the White Sox were in first place in 1994 when a strike ended the season. Thomas did earn a World Series ring in 2005 with the White Sox, even though he was injured and did not play.
Hypothetical question here: If the White Sox had won the 1994 World Series would history view him differently?
A lot of Thomas’ career was spent as a DH. While baseball fans and so-called purists have strong opinions about the designated hitter, there’s no question Thomas benefited from the ability to rest his injured ankles for most of his career.
Despite spending over a decade at first base, many view Thomas as the first designated hitter to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Thomas left Chicago a bitter man after GM Kenny Williams signed Jim Thome in 2006.
He hit his 500th career home run playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, and finished his career in Oakland, all of which just seemed WRONG!
He did return home to Chicago. Things were mended about as good as you can expect in “ChiTown,” but it still has to leave a sour taste in his mouth to have done everything right and still not get the love he so deserves.
Greatest White Sox Player Ever.