“Frank Thomas was one of the greatest right-handed hitters that I’ve ever seen.”
Usually during a White Sox television broadcast, fans will hear play-by-play man Ken “Hawk” Harrelson utter those words when talking about a great modern-day right-handed hitter.
Sure, I’ve only been alive for a little over 22 years. I didn’t get to see Henry Aaron shatter home run marks. I didn’t get to see the greatest five-tool player of all-time, Willie Mays, make some of the most incredible plays in baseball lore.
But, I got to see the greatest player in the history of the Chicago White Sox.
Frank Thomas was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, along with winning four American League Silver Slugger Awards. Thomas was voted to five straight All-Star Games from 1993 to 1997. “The Big Hurt” won the 1995 Home Run Derby and was the 1997 American League Batting Champion.
For all the accolades, for all the 521 career home runs and for all 1,704 runs that The Big Hurt drove in over a 19-year career, the impact he had on baseball was felt by everyone, especially those who threw Thomas belt-high fastballs that he would drill into upper decks across the nation.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, Thomas was a two-sport freak. During his senior year at Columbus High School, Thomas hit an astonishing .440 and was named to the all-state football team as a tight end in Georgia.
Thomas would go on to play baseball and football at Auburn University, which almost had him blocking for former Heisman Trophy winner and eventual White Sox teammate, Bo Jackson. Thomas arrived the fall after Jackson was riding the buses in the Kansas City Royals farm system.
The two would finally become teammates during the 1993 season with the White Sox after Jackson’s gruesome hip injury that forced him to retire from the National Football League. That year, Thomas won his first AL MVP Award, while Jackson won AL Comeback Player of the Year.
While Jackson’s sports careers were coming to an end, the legendary career of Frank Thomas was just beginning.
Thomas made his major league debut in August 1990. From 1991 to 1997, The Big Hurt never finished outside of the top-10 in the AL MVP voting.
(And yeah, he made some pretty awesome commercials during that time period with Reebok.)
(Just for the record, if anybody has those old “Big Hurt” Reebok sneakers in a size 9, feel free to contact me about selling them.)
In that six-year span of dominance on the South Side of Chicago, Thomas hit 250 home runs, drove in 823 runs and didn’t hit lower than .317 (which oddly enough was during one of his MVP seasons in 1993).
During his final season in Chicago, Thomas only played in 34 games due to injury in 2005.
Although Thomas wasn’t on the postseason roster during the run to a World Series title, the White Sox respectfully gave him a championship ring for his contributions to the franchise since his debut in 1990.
The Big Hurt was and still is an icon in Chicago sports lore. Thomas even has his own beer, “Big Hurt Beer”, that’s brewed in Saint Paul, Minnesota and sold all over the city of Chicago.
Thomas’ No. 35 is retired by the White Sox, along with a statue of him swinging in left field at U.S. Cellular Field.
How stellar of a class is that?
To put this class in perspective, you have probably the greatest pitching duo of all-time and arguably the three greatest managers of all-time.
Not to mention the greatest right-handed hitter of the last 30 years.