White Sox retire Thomas' number in larger-than-life ceremony; announce plans for statue in Legends Plaza
During his playing days, which included back-to-back American League MVP seasons (’93-’94), 5X All-Star appearances (’93-’97), and AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2000, there was no bigger impact player (physically - 6'5" and 275 pounds - and symbolically) in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse than “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas.
Known for his menacing approach to batting (he routinely swung a rusted piece of rebar in the on-deck circle that he reportedly found during a renovation project in Old Comiskey Park) and his devastating power at the plate, he retired in February after a 19-year career in which he dominated opposing pitchers with discerning batting approach that yielded an impressive .301 career batting average, 521 homers and 1,704 RBI.
So it is only fitting that the Windy City southsiders recently honored Thomas by retiring his number and revealing a larger-than-life likeness of Big Frank on the famous outfield wall. The team also announced plans to install a bronze sculpture of Thomas in the White Sox Legends sculpture plaza. But perhaps most telling is the news that the organization that he shed blood, sweat and tears for over 16 seasons (1990-2005) has hired the “Big Hurt” to serve as a community ambassador in the Chicagoland area and beyond.
Thomas fought back tears during an emotional ceremony that included fireworks and several of his former teammates including World Series MVP Jermaine Dye. He thanked the organization and the city that he loved and served so well, saying "you can only dream of something like this" in an emotionally moving ceremony before the game VS. the NY Yankees, adding that this is an honor he'll remember for the "rest of my life."
Among those on hand to see Thomas become the ninth White Sox player to have his number retired were all-time greats Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso who have also seen themselves enshrined in bronze in the WS Legends area located in the left field grandstands.
"It brought back a lot of memories, thinking about teammates and all the great times and bad times," Thomas said. "It just got to me. Emotion caught up. I'm a very, very proud man today, and this was probably was the proudest day of my life."
There was a video tribute for Thomas, who was then presented a painting and framed jersey by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf near home plate. Earlier this year, at his retirement ceremony when it was announced that the team would also retire Big Frank’s jersey #35, the Rwinsdorf said: "Everyone who enjoyed watching Frank perform during his outstanding career with the White Sox quickly realized we were watching one of the greatest offensive players of all-time, a player destined to re-write our club's record books. 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."
Thomas is one of only four MLB players to have at least a .300 batting average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks in a career. The other three in this elite group were Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.