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The Case for Frank Thomas

by Sox Since '70

Spring training began in earnest this past week.  The White Sox players began reporting to Tucson Electric Park February 16th to prepare for the 2005 campaign.
All but one player will report on time.  And his excuse (a slow healing ankle) is more than valid.  That player is Frank Thomas.
Thomas, Sox fans are told, will report to camp in early March.  He is being reevaluated by team doctors after ankle surgery in December,2004.Sox fans can only hope the man once known as "The Big Hurt" comes back in full form, be it in March, June, or anytime during the 2005 campaign.
Thomas is an offensive machine.  His mere presence assures the opposition will pitch to anyone else in the lineup but him.His ability to take walks makes him an
asset to the club, whether he hits .270,.290 or above .300.
A thread was started on this site only days ago to support Thomas.  I do.  No problem there.  I will not be a "Hater" when it comes to "The Big Hurt".  I wish he'd learn to keep his mouth shut when he complains about the fans or his salary.  And not admitting to the importance of Jackie Robinson when his number was officially retired in 1997 made me scratch my head in wonder.  Being pro-union during the '94 lockout while non union workers built his home made me laugh at his hypocrisy.
But I do not hate the man.  I disagree with the issues stated above, but we all make mistakes.
Seeing as 2005 is the last year on Thomas' "diminished clauses" contract, the man I want to remember was the one I saw on the fields of Comiskey Park between 1991 and 1997.
During that 6 year period,  Frank Thomas was one of the deadliest hitters in the American League. You could spout off Griffey, Palmeiro, Juan Gone, Albert Belle, etc.  But if you didn't rank Thomas in your top 5 or top 10 of "hitters you don't wan to see in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line", you weren't paying attention.  He was Albert Pujols (offensively, at least) a decade earlier.  A right handed hitter who sprayed to all directions.  I used to enjoy watching Thomas take a Mike Mussina offering over the right center field wall.  Once, I swear he took an eye high pitch from Juan Guzman and smashed it off the center field wall for a game winning 2 run double in 1993.
But there are 3 instances that stick out and tell me why Thomas is a first ballot HOF'er.
1.In the 6th or 7th inning of a game at home against the Rangers on July 31,1991, he took a Kenny Rogers hanging curve and hit a bomb into the old bullpen area in left center at Comiskey.  That was the night Robin Ventura's 9th inning Grand Slam erased an 8-6 deficit into a 10-8 Sox victory.  When Ventura crossed home plate, Thomas lifted him over his shoulder like a rag doll in celebration.  This was also the night Ken Harrelson tired of calling him "Big Frank" or "The Hammer".  He told his partner Tom "Wimpy" Paciorek that he always found himself saying "he hurt it" after Thomas homered.  His solution was to give Thomas a nickname that stuck through most of his career: "The Big Hurt". 
2.In a back and forth tussle against the Royals on 8/13/93,Thomas faced (then) Royals closer Jeff Montgomery in the bottom of the eighth with the Sox down 4-3.Royals manager Hal MacRae swore the last guy he would let beat the Royals was Thomas.  The night previous, Thomas went hitless as the Royals triumphed-4-2. This night, with the tying run on second base and Thomas at the plate, MacRae wasted no time going to his closer in the eighth inning. Montgomery's first offering was high for ball one.  The next pitch almost sailed over the head of catcher Mike Macfarlane for ball 2.  Pitch number 3 was the Royals death knell as Thomas swung, lifting a high (and I mean high) fly ball to deep left field for a game winning 2 run homer.  That ball could have brought down rain when it landed 5 or 6 rows back in the left field seats.
3.In a crucial series with the Twins on 7/2/03,Thomas came up in the bottom of the 12th.The Sox were down a run.  Winning this game would put them in first
place, vaulting them past the Twins in the standings.  Victory would also assure the Sox a sweep in a crucial 3 game series against their deadliest AL Central rivals.  Thomas, with a runner on first, arrived at home plate as the winning run.  His lengthy bout with (then) Twins closer Eddie Guardado (aka "Everyday Eddie") led to the final outcome.  After just hitting what everyone thought was a game winning 2 run homer foul down the left field line, Thomas hit the next pitch he saw a mile high the same way.  Only this time the ball landed in the left field stands in fair territory.  The Sox prevailed.
Frank Edward Thomas, Jr. is a first ballot HOF'er. In his first 6 years in the bigs (1991-1997), he won 2 MVP awards, a batting title, never hit less than .300, hit 20 + HR's, walked 100 times, scored 100 times and had at least 100 RBI's in each of those six seasons. This puts him in an elite company with guys named Williams, Ruth, and Gehrig.
During his first few years with the Sox, Thomas hung a quote in his locker.  The quote, taken from a Public Enemy song, was "Don't Believe The Hype".  No hype here.Thomas is a Hall of Famer.He should have been the 2000 MVP as well.
If 2005 is his last year in a Sox uniform,I will remember the first 6 years he put together as a lasting memory.  Until further notice,he is the greatest offensive player the White Sox franchise will ever see.

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