Frank Thomas (AL baseball player): Wikis

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Frank Thomas

Designated hitter / First baseman
Born: May 27, 1968 (1968-05-27) (age 41)
Columbus, Georgia
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
August 2, 1990 for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
August 29, 2008 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average     .301
Home runs     521
Hits     2,468
Runs batted in     1,704
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Frank Edward Thomas, Jr. (born May 27, 1968) is a retired Major League Baseball designated hitter and first baseman.

Thomas became one of baseball's biggest stars in the 1990s, playing for the Chicago White Sox. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson coined the nickname "The Big Hurt" for Thomas in the 1992 season.[1] Frank Thomas is known for his menacing home run power; he routinely swung a rusted piece of rebar (reportedly found during a renovation project in Old Comiskey Park[2]) in the on-deck circle.[3]

Thomas played baseball and football at [4] Auburn University. He is part of an elite group of four players (including Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams) to have at least a .300 batting average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBI, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks in a career. He retired February 12th, 2010. [5]

Contents

Early life and career

Thomas was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, and shares a birthday (5/27/68) with fellow Major League player Jeff Bagwell, a player whose career would eventually parallel Thomas's in several aspects.[6] Frank attended Columbus High School and was a standout in both football and baseball. As a Columbus High School sophomore he hit cleanup for a baseball team that won a state championship. As a senior he hit .440 for the baseball team, was named an All-State tight end with the football team, and played forward with the basketball team. He wanted desperately to win a contract to play professional baseball, but was not drafted in the 1986 amateur draft.[7]

"I was shocked and sad," Thomas recalled in the Chicago Tribune. "I saw a lot of guys I played against get drafted, and I knew they couldn't do what I could do. But I've had people all my life saying you can't do this, you can't do that. It scars you. No matter how well I've done. People have misunderstood me for some reason. I was always one of the most competitive kids around."[7]

In the autumn of 1986, Thomas accepted a scholarship to play football at Auburn University. His love of baseball drew him to the Auburn baseball team, where the coach immediately recognized his potential. "We loved him," Auburn baseball coach Hal Baird told Sports Illustrated. "He was fun to be around—always smiling, always bright-eyed." He was also a deadly hitter, posting a .359 batting average and leading the Tigers in runs batted in as a freshman. During the summer of 1987 he played for the U.S. Pan American Team, earning a spot on the final roster that would compete in the Pan American Games. The Games coincided with the beginning of football practice back at Auburn, so he left the Pan Am team and returned to college—only to be injured twice in early season football games.[7]

Despite the injury that could have jeopardized his football scholarship, Auburn continued his funding and baseball became his sole sport. He won consideration for the U.S. National Team — preparing for the 1988 Summer Olympics — but he was cut from the final squad. By the end of his junior baseball season he had hit 19 home runs, 19 doubles, and batted .403 with a slugging percentage of .801. He earned Southeastern Conference MVP honors his senior year.

Thomas concluded his college career with 49 home runs, a school record.[8]

The Chicago White Sox acquired Thomas from the Kansas City Royals after a trade for Bo Jackson, a seventh round pick and cash considerations of the June 1989 Major League Baseball Draft.

Despite his defensive skills Thomas played first base during the early part of his career. He has spent the latter part of his career as a designated hitter. Thomas is the only player in major league history to have seven consecutive seasons of a .300 average and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, and 20 home runs (from 1991 to 1997).[8] The only other player to have more than five consecutive seasons accomplishing this feat was Ted Williams with six.[8] This accomplishment is even more remarkable considering that he played only 113 games in 1994, due to the strike.

There are only six other players in history who have both hit more home runs and have a higher career batting average than Thomas: Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Willie Mays.

Chicago White Sox (1990-2005)

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Early years (1990-96)

Thomas made his major league debut on August 2, 1990 against the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. He went hitless, going 0-4, but had an RBI on a fielder's choice which scored Iván Calderón as the White Sox won the game 4-3.[9] On August 28, 1990, Thomas hit the first home run of his career in Minnesota, against the Twins (coincidentally, he would hit his 500th career home run at the Metrodome). He hit the home run off pitcher Gary Wayne in the top of the ninth as his team lost 12-6.[10]

In his first full season, in 1991, Thomas finished third in MVP voting with a .318 batting average, 32 home runs, 109 runs batted in as well as walking 138 times. He won the first of four Silver Slugger awards, and led the league in on-base percentage, something he would accomplish four times throughout his career.

In 1993 and 1994, Thomas won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards — the first by a White Sox since Dick Allen in 1972. In 1994, the baseball season was shortened due to a players' strike and perhaps no one felt the sting of the strike more than Thomas, who stood poised to achieve one of baseball's most prestigious honors: the Triple Crown. Not since 1967 had any player finished the regular season first in average, home runs, and runs batted in. Thomas was contending for the honor when the strike occurred, and his numbers were good enough to earn him a second American League Most Valuable Player award. Pressed by the media to comment on his accomplishments—and his future—Thomas told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution: "I'm not into being known as the best by fans or the media. I care how I'm perceived by my peers. I can settle for the label 'one of the best' because that means you're considered an elite player."[7]

He is one of only three first basemen in history to win consecutive Most Valuable Player awards in the major leagues (Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx, 1932-1933, and current St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols, 2008-2009, are the others). In his second MVP season, he hit .353, with 38 home runs and 101 RBI. In 1996, he hit .349 40 home runs and became an All-Star for the fourth time, while finishing 8th in MVP voting.

Later years (1997-2005)

Frank Thomas throws out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2005 ALDS between the White Sox and Red Sox.

From 1991–1997, Thomas finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting every year. In 1997, Thomas won the batting title and finished third in MVP voting. He struggled over the next two seasons, but rebounded in 2000 when he hit .328 with a career-high 43 homers and 143 runs batted in. Thomas finished second in MVP voting that season, behind Jason Giambi of the Oakland Athletics. He also won the 2000 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. In 2001, after his father died, Thomas also announced during the same week that he would undergo season ending surgery after a second MRI revealed a triceps tear in his right arm. "This is the worst week of my life," Thomas said during a press conference in Chicago. "First I lose my father, then come back and find out I'm lost for the season." He only played in 20 games that year.[11]

He rebounded in 2002, but he just hit .252 in 148 games, a career-low for Thomas for a complete season. As the years went on, Thomas' average dropped year after year, but his power never seemed to diminish. He has traditionally been a patient hitter, leading the American League in walks four times. Through the end of the 2006 season, Thomas was second among all active players in walks and third in on-base percentage, and ranked among the top 20 lifetime in both categories.

Thomas had been maligned by the media in Chicago due to a dropoff in his performance later in his career. Much of this came about after the 2002 season, when the White Sox invoked a "diminished skills" clause in his contract. Thomas somewhat resurrected his career in 2003; although he hit a subpar .267, he was tied for second in the American League in home runs (42), and was in the league's top ten in walks, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging, as he led the major leagues in fly ball percentage (54.9%). In 2005, Thomas hit 12 home runs despite only having 105 at-bats in 35 games, demonstrating the power that he showed earlier in his career. Adding together 2004 and 2005, he had fewer than 350 total at-bats because of the injuries but managed to hit 30 home runs and draw 80 walks. As a member of the White Sox, Thomas and teammate Magglio Ordóñez tied a major league record for back-to-back homers, with six in one season. Thomas won a World Series title with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, but he was not on the post-season roster due to injury. During Game 1 of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, Thomas threw out the ceremonial first pitch. "What a feeling," Thomas said. "Standing O all around the place. People really cheering me. I had tears in my eyes. To really know the fans cared that much about me -- it was a great feeling. One of my proudest moments in the game."[6]

Departure and controversy (2005)

Thomas's departure from the White Sox was somewhat controversial. He and White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams exchanged words before Thomas left for Oakland. After signing with Oakland, Thomas said that he didn’t appreciate the way his 16-year run with the White Sox ended, saying that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t call him to tell him he wasn’t coming back. He also said that he and Williams didn’t see eye-to-eye after Williams became GM following the 2000 season. At the time, Thomas was unhappy that his next-to-last deal with the White Sox contained a “diminished skills” clause. He said the White Sox should have traded him after the playoffs that season.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jerry Reinsdorf, I do. But I really thought, the relationship we had over the last 16 years, he would have picked up the phone to say, `Big guy, we’re moving forward. We’re going somewhere different. We don’t know your situation or what’s going to happen.’ I can live with that, I really can,” Thomas said. “But treating me like some passing-by-player. I’ve got no respect for that.” Thomas said he wasn’t bitter or angry and had joined the A’s with an open mind.[12]

Williams fired back at Thomas, calling him an "idiot." He also said “If he was any kind of a man, he would quit talking about things in the paper and return a phone call or come knock on someone’s door. If I had the kind of problems evidently he had with me, I would go knock on his door.”[12] Thomas and Williams have since made amends.

Thomas has several White Sox records to his name, including all-time leader in runs scored (1,327), home runs (448), doubles (447), RBI (1,465), extra-base hits (906), walks (1,466), total bases (3,949), slugging percentage (.568), and on-base percentage (.427). At the time he left the team, his 448 home runs were more than twice as many as any other individual player had hit for the White Sox in their 104-year history.

On December 7, 2005, Thomas signed with the Oakland Athletics to a one year, $500,000 deal with incentives on January 25, 2006.[13]

Frank Thomas mid swing on April 3, 2006.

Oakland Athletics (2006)

The Athletics installed Thomas as their everyday DH. He started the season slowly, but ended the season as the team leader in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He provided a powerful right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup for the division-leading Athletics. He had a stretch where he hit a home run in six straight games.

On May 22, 2006, Thomas homered twice in his first game against his former team. Before Thomas came up to lead off the 2nd inning, a musical montage played on the Jumbotron at U.S. Cellular Field, paying tribute to Thomas's legacy with the White Sox. He was cheered in his introduction by the White Sox fans. Moments later, when he hit his first home run of the night to put his former team behind in the score 1–0, he was loudly cheered along with a standing ovation.

Thomas rejuvenated his career playing with the Athletics, placing fifth in the American League with 39 HRs and eighth with 114 RBI.[14] He also was key to the team's stretch drive to the playoffs: for the week ending September 10, he was the American League's player of the week after hitting .462 with five homers and 13 RBI.[15] The 2006 post season provided Thomas the opportunity to play in his first postseason games since 2000 since he missed the 2005 playoffs with an injury, when the Athletics clinched the American League West title, defeating the Seattle Mariners 12-3 on September 26. During the A's first playoff game on October 3, Thomas hit two solo home runs, leading the A's to a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. His performance during the opening playoff game earned Thomas the distinction of being the oldest player to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game.

On October 7, 2006, he finished behind Jim Thome, the man who replaced him as the Chicago White Sox's DH, in the voting for the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. He was awarded the AL players choice award for Comeback Player. He finished 4th in the vote for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.[14]

Toronto Blue Jays (2007-08)

Frank Thomas getting a hit during Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida
Frank Thomas posing with Angelo Dundee, former trainer of boxing great Muhammad Ali, at Knology Field, Dunedin, Florida.
Banner at Rogers Centre announcing Thomas' home run count

On November 16, 2006 Thomas signed a 2-year, $18 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. According to BlueJays.com, Thomas was scheduled to make $1 million (US) in the first season (with a $9.12 million signing bonus) and $8 million in the next season. The contract included an option for 2009 contingent on his reaching 1,050 plate appearances over the next two seasons or 525 plate appearances in the second year of the contract.[16]

On June 17, 2007, Thomas hit his 496th career home run, giving him his 244th home run as a DH, breaking the record previously held by Edgar Martínez.

On June 28, 2007, Thomas hit the 500th home run of his career, becoming the 21st player in the history of Major League Baseball to do so. It was a three-run shot off Minnesota's Carlos Silva. Thomas was ejected in the later innings of the game for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire.

On September 17, 2007, Thomas hit three home runs in his team's 6-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. It was the second time in his career that Thomas hit three home runs in a game, the first time also against the Red Sox, on September 15, 1996, in a Chicago White Sox loss.[17][18] Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield started both games for the Red Sox, and gave up five of the six home runs Thomas hit, including all three in the first game.

During spring training in 2008, Thomas expressed his confidence about his team's chances for the upcoming season. Thomas hit his first home run of the season against the Red Sox on April 5, in a 10-2 Blue Jays win. The following day, with the bases loaded and a 2-2 tie, Thomas hit a grand slam off Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, leading the Jays to a 7-4 victory. On April 19, before a game against the Detroit Tigers manager John Gibbons announced that he would be benching Thomas for an undisclosed period of time. The benching angered the 39-year old Thomas, who did not shake hands with his teammates following their victory on that day and said before the game that he was angry and that his career "will not end like this."[19] Thomas signed a two-year, $18 million contract with Toronto in November 2006. The deal included a $10 million option for 2009, but only if Thomas made 376 plate appearances in 2008.

Return to Oakland (2008)

On April 20, 2008, the Blue Jays released Thomas, who had been batting only .167. This occurred one day after being benched by the team for his lack of production, and criticizing manager John Gibbons for benching him.[20] Four days later, the Oakland Athletics and Thomas agreed to terms for his return.[21] In his final game with the Athletics on August 29, he went 2 for 4. After struggling at the plate with Oakland and a two-month stint on the disabled list, his 2008 season ended with a .263 batting average when he was again placed on the 60-day disabled list on August 30.[22] On October 31, 2008 he became a free agent. Thomas officially retired on February 11, 2010[23], and will be eligible for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Retirement

On February 12, 2010, Thomas announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after not playing in the 2009 season.

Baseball accomplishments

  • On June 28, 2007, Thomas became the 21st player in Major League Baseball history to hit at least 500 home runs, after he hit a first inning home run at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.[24]
  • Thomas is on a short list of players who have hit 500 home runs while maintaining a career .300 batting average (joining Hall-of-Famers: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, and later joined by Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramírez).
  • Thomas is also on a short list of players to hit 500 career home runs and accrue at least 1600 bases on balls. The others are: Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds.
  • Thomas was the first player in major league history to win two Silver Slugger awards each at two different positions (1993-94 at first base; 1991 & 2000 as designated hitter).
  • He was the 22nd player to win a second Most Valuable Player Award (1993 & 94). He was the first American League player to accomplish this since Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961.
  • He was only the eleventh player in history to win consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards, and the first American League player to do so since Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961.
  • He was the third player (Eddie Murray and Hank Aaron) to collect 500 career home runs and 120 career sacrifice flies.
  • His 138 walks in the 1991 season was not only the most accrued in a season by any American League player in the 1990s, it was the most for a season by any American League player since 1969 when Harmon Killebrew walked 145 times.
  • Thomas' 0.729 slugging percentage for the shortened 1994 season was the highest season mark for an American League player since Ted Williams' 0.731 slugging percentage in 1957. Only Mark McGwire's 0.730 in 1996 has been higher since then.
  • In the shortened 1994 season, Thomas achieved an on-base percentage of 0.494 which was also the highest season mark for an American League player since Ted Williams' 0.528 on-base percentage in 1957. No American League player has topped this since.
  • Retired as the all-time leader in home runs by a designated hitter, with 269. He is currently 2nd, behind David Ortiz.
  • Currently ranks 18th with career 521 HRs.
  • Currently ranks 21st with career 1,704 RBI.
  • Currently ranks 24th with a .554 career slugging percentage.
  • Currently ranks 4th with 121 career sacrifice flies. He is the only player in Major League history to hit over 100 sacrifice flies and not collect a single sacrifice hit. [1]
  • The White Sox will retire his uniform No. 35 during in an on-field ceremony on "Frank Thomas Day," August 29, 2010.[25]

Appearances in the media

Thomas appeared in the movie Mr. Baseball (as a hot-prospect rookie who forces Tom Selleck's character off the Yankees) and made a guest appearance (as himself) on the TV show Married With Children.

In 1995, a Super NES baseball video game titled Frank Thomas' Big Hurt Baseball was released for home video game play, and Premier Technologies created a "Big Hurt" pinball machine, (marketed under the Gottlieb trade name).[26] Thomas made an appearance in the documentary The History of Pinball in which he discusses the similarities between playing baseball and pinball.

In 2007, he appeared in a promotional advertisement for the Toronto Blue Jays, in which he engages in a pillow fight with children. This ad drew the criticism of the Television Bureau of Canada, who requested a "Dramatization. Do not try this at home." disclaimer be placed on the ad. A similar warning was placed on teammate A.J. Burnett's commercial.[2] The Blue Jays, humorously, then scheduled a "Frank Thomas Kid's Pillow" promotion for September 2, 2007. [3]

Thomas appeared as a guest analyst during TBS's coverage of the 2007 MLB playoffs.

He also helped out Comcast SportsNet Chicago with the Crosstown Classic in 2009.[citation needed]

Advocate for drug testing

As early as 1995, Thomas was advocating drug testing for professional baseball players.[27] After hitting his 500th home run, Thomas stated, "It means a lot to me because I did it the right way," alluding to Barry Bonds's then-ongoing pursuit of Hank Aaron's career home run record.[28] Thomas was the only active baseball player to be interviewed during the preparation of the Mitchell Report. He did so voluntarily.

See also

References

  1. ^ Kidzworld :: Nicknames in Pro Sports | Randy Johnson | Gary Payton | Tara Dakides | Snowboarding | Athletes
  2. ^ Baseball Musings: Hurt Nostalgia
  3. ^ http://www.thediamondangle.com/archive/may02/whitesox/frank4.jpg
  4. ^ http://www.frankthomascollection.com/87_Auburn_Media_2.jpg
  5. ^ Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Thomas Out, Barry Bonds In? | Bleacher Report
  6. ^ a b ESPN - Big Hurt is far from forgotten - MLB
  7. ^ a b c d Frank Thomas Biography
  8. ^ a b c "The Ballplayers - Frank Thomas". BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Frank_Thomas_1968. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  9. ^ August 2, 1990 Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee Brewers Play by Play and Box Score - Baseball-Reference.com
  10. ^ August 28, 1990 Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Play by Play and Box Score - Baseball-Reference.com
  11. ^ CHICAGO'S BIG HURT.(injury to Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox)(Brief Article) - Jet | Encyclopedia.com
  12. ^ a b White Sox GM: Frank Thomas an Idiot » OTB Sports
  13. ^ Associated Press (2006-01-26). "Former ChiSox slugger agrees to 1-year deal with A's". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2305916. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  14. ^ a b "Frank Thomas Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/t/thomafr04.shtml. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  15. ^ Thomas named AL Player of the Week
  16. ^ Bastian, Jordan (2006-11-17). "Big signing: Jays ink Thomas Two-year contract includes option for 2009 season". MLB.com. http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20061117&content_id=1742394&vkey=news_tor&fext=.jsp&c_id=tor/. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  17. ^ September 15, 1996 Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox Play by Play and Box Score - Baseball-Reference.com
  18. ^ September 17, 2007 Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Box Score and Play by Play - Baseball-Reference.com
  19. ^ Blue Jays' Thomas Angered by Benching - washingtonpost.com
  20. ^ Blue Jays release Thomas after slow start to 2008 season
  21. ^ Thomas agrees to deal with A's
  22. ^ Big Hurt is back on disabled list
  23. ^ Big Hurt decides to call it a career
  24. ^ Frank Thomas hits career Home Run #500
  25. ^ White Sox to retire Big Hurt's No. 35
  26. ^ Internet Pinball Machine Database: Premier 'Big Hurt'
  27. ^ "Steroids in Baseball? Say it Ain't So, Bud", Sporting News, July 24, 1995, p. 26
  28. ^ Thomas Launches No. 500 at Metrodome

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