Frank Thomas: The Big Hurt

frank thomas chicago white sox the big hurt
Photo Credit: Judd Nowicki

White Sox baseball in the 90s was defined by Frank Thomas. Operating as Chicago’s very own bat-wielding Incredible Hulk for 15 years (from 1990-2005), The Big Hurt exemplified South Side baseball with his imposing swagger and mind-boggling moonshots. His accomplishments speak for themselves:

  • He is the White Sox franchise leader in home runs (448), RBI (1465), runs (1327), doubles (447), extra base hits (906), total bases (3949), walks (1466), sacrifice flies (109), on-base percentage (.427) and slugging percentage (.568).
  • He is the 21st player in league history with 500 career home runs.
  • He is one of nine players of all time to hit 500 home runs with a career batting average above .300.
  • And one of six players of all time to hit 500 home runs and accrue 1600 walks.
  • Thomas won four Silver Slugger awards. (Two as a first basemen and two as a DH)
  • He was the American League MVP in ’93 and ’94.
  • Not to mention having his own video game, Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt Baseball, making a an appearance in Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball and guest starring as himself in an episode of Married With Children.

Big Frank was one of the most intimidating players in the league, probably setting a record for most pairs of pitcher’s underwear soiled. During the renovation of Old Comiskey Park, Thomas stumbled across a rusted piece of rebar. That battered chunk of metal would come to make opponents sweat as Thomas swung it menacingly in the on-deck circle before his at-bats.

While his handling of rebar is the stuff of pro wrestling, his work with a baseball bat is better suited for Cooperstown. Despite being a prolific home run hitter, Thomas was often compared to great all-around batters like Ted Williams. Frank was a pure line-drive hitter — the ball off his bat was a runaway train leaving a trail of steam from home plate to the deepest part of the bleachers. In an era mired in steroid use, he was one of the earliest advocates for drug testing in baseball. His juggernaut-like frame better resembled a running back than a drug-inflated bodybuilder. After hitting his 500th home run Thomas noted that it meant a lot to him because he did it “the right way.” He was the only player to be interviewed for the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball, and he did so voluntarily.

Injuries derailed the end of his career with the White Sox, though he did finally get his World Series ring in his final season on the South Side. Despite not being on the post-season roster due to injury, a teary-eyed Thomas threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game One of the first round series, to a standing ovation. When he wasn’t resigned the following season he and Sox general manager Kenny Williams exchanged some barbs in the media. Both sides disagreed on how the contract situation with the future Hall of Famer should have been handled.

The club and Thomas have since reconciled, with Thomas’ number 35 retired on August 29, 2010 — “Frank Thomas Day.” The White Sox have also announced the unveiling of a Frank Thomas statue in 2011, where the Big Hurt will join Sox legends Minnie Minoso, Carlton Fisk, Billy Pierce, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox and Harold Baines.

Frank goes down as the greatest White Sox hitter of the post-deadball era, and possibly of all time, with respects to Shoeless Joe. Those looking to get their Big Hurt fix can catch Thomas, now working as a post-game analyst, on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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