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
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
"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
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."