“Big Hurt” Frank Thomas Closes Door On Storied Career Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rednour   
Sunday, 28 February 2010

521 Homers and 18 Impressive Seasons Fuel His Legacy; Case For Hall of Fame

On February 12th Frank Thomas took the podium at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, where he hit the lion’s share of his 521 career long balls, and officially ended his explosive MLB career. The two-time American League MVP (and one of only six players to win consecutive honors) was joined by his wife and children as he relived the moments that made him arguably the greatest hitter in White Sox history.

Tied for 18th all-time with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey, Thomas is a five-time All Star who batted .301 with a .419 on-base average and an impressive 1,704 runs batted in.

But the statistic that should make him a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2014 is that he’s the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, and 20 home runs (from 1991 to 1997). This accomplishment is even more remarkable considering he played only 113 games in 1994, due to the strike. The only other player to have more than five consecutive seasons accomplishing this feat was fellow 500HRC member Ted Williams with six.

"I'm really proud to be able to retire as a Chicago White Sox player,” said Thomas, who was selected seventh by Chicago’s southside franchise in the first round of the 1989 MLB draft and anchored the team for 16 seasons. Clearly the team feels the same about “Big Frank”, as demonstrated by their announcement they will retire his No. 35 jersey and honor him during an on-field ceremony on Frank Thomas Day (August 29) at the Cell.

"People think we had a rocky relationship, but (White Sox Team Owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf) was the first one I called to say I was going to retire," said Thomas, who was unceremoniously let go after the 2005 Championship season. "And that conversation was as warm as all the others we have had over the years.”

Thomas was upset when the club bought out his option for $3.5 million that December, and things got particularly nasty during the 2006 spring training. He sounded off in a pre-season interview and general manager Ken Williams responded by calling him "an idiot." The man who had done so much for his team was disappointed when they portrayed him as a damaged player. The team countered that they were only stating the obvious after injuries to his left ankle limited him to 34 games and made him a spectator as the White Sox grabbed their first World Series title since 1917.

"We all know Kenny Williams and I had a big blowup," Thomas said. "We both moved on. When you're considered an icon in a city as a player, it's always hard to let those players go. It's never a pretty or nice scene. We've seen it over the years. You think of a Brett Favre, Shaquille O'Neal leaving L.A., Allen Iverson leaving Philly. When players get to a certain level, it's never easy to say goodbye."

Despite personality differences with the front office, the fact that Thomas hit more homers and had a higher batting average than all but six other players in history (Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Willie Mays) made him a fan favorite…and should get him a quick phone call from the hall.

Everyone who enjoyed watching Frank Thomas perform during his outstanding career with the White Sox quickly realized we were watching one of the greatest offensive players of all time,'' Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. ''When your career comes to an end, and your body of work is compared to Hall of Famers like Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, you truly rank among baseball royalty. I believe it is only a matter of time until Frank receives the game's greatest honor in Cooperstown.

"We all think about those things. Hopefully I get that call," he said. "I put in the work. My resume speaks for itself, and I would be honored to be among that class of players."

In the meantime, Thomas has made it clear that he would like to renew his employment by the White Sox. Whether that means returning as a hitting coach, as Mark McGwire will do with the Cardinals this year, or in another capacity. Thomas said: "My last few years, I really helped young guys. We'll see in the upcoming months and years where I fit. … I'm not going to step away. I want to be involved in the game doing something."

"I'm proud, very proud," Thomas said of his final statistics, by all accounts accomplished without the use of performance enhancement drugs, against which he was an outspoken foe. "I worked my butt off. I took pride being the first one (in the clubhouse) and the last one to leave every night because I was working. I'm really proud of the career I've had."

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