Thursday, February 18, 2010
Since Frank Thomas officially retired late last week, most people, through their interviews and articles, have paid the big man their respects and reflected back on his brilliant career.
My turn, briefly. I don't have one favorite memory of the Big Hurt- that one moment that is a microcosm for his time in Chicago. I remember just about everything about the guy though: his first at bats in the curly-"e" Sox hat, his MVPs, his batting title, his one handed, one footed homeruns. And of the course the less pleasant stuff too: the diminished skills clause, the shuttle drill, the injuries, the messy post '05 divorce.
Through it all he was the best hitter in Sox history, and my favorite player. What many other have said in the past week is true for me too: He's the reason I became not only a White Sox fan, but a big baseball fan in general. When I was a kid, I lived for collecting his baseball cards to gawk at the stat lines on the back. His accomplishments in the 1990s were just outrageous- a Frank Thomas at bat at that time was truly a "drop everything and get in front of the TV" affair. What made him so special wasn't just that he could launch a 450-foot homerun, but that he could just as easily have sent a rocket into the rightfield corner, or taken a walk.
Despite a few speed bumps, he remained remarkably productive into the '00s, albeit as a more traditional dead pull power hitter. After suffering some under-appreciation in the steroid era, Thomas had three great moments of triumph and redemption in the middle of the decade:
- Getting his World Series ring in '05.
- Launching two homers in his return to the Cell in '06
- Launching two homers in the first game of the ALDS.
The most interesting thing to me about the retirement announcement was how the Chicago media would tell the story. Throughout Frank's illustrious career, local media hasn't always been the wind beneath his wings. In the late '90s, they consciously chose to celebrate Sammy Sosa and chastise Frank. Why did the media choose to shaft the Big Hurt? Better than anything I can write today, that link is the best tribute to Frank I can craft.
This time around, the results were generally positive, with most writers professing their admiration for the man's career and saying he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. (With the exception of Rick Telander's Jay Mariotti-esque hatchet job, which was truly too stupid to even rebut and not worth linking.)
Anyway, here's to you #35, and here's hoping your plaque will hang in Cooperstown someday very soon.