Frank Thomas, who hit 521 homers in a 19-season career, was voted into the Hall of Fame Wednesday as part of a three-man class with 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
The Big Hurt won two MVPs and finished in the top 10 seven other times in 19 years with the White Sox, Oakland and Toronto.
He hit at least 40 homers five times and was an on-base machine, walking more than 100 times in 10 seasons.
He was the seventh overall pick by the White Sox in 1989 from Auburn University, where he was a tight end as a freshman before giving up football.
See also: Thomas’ 1988 scouting report
In the draft, he was chosen behind Ben McDonald (Baltimore), Tyler Houston (Atlanta), Roger Salkeld (Seattle), Jeff Jackson (Philadelphia), Donald Harris (Texas) and Paul Coleman (St. Louis).
Here was BA’s pre-draft report:
“If it’s power a team is looking for with an early first-round pick, then Auburn’s 6-foot-5, 250-pound 1B Frank Thomas is the man. He’s the top power prospect in the draft and shouldn’t last past the first 12 or 13 picks.”
Thomas compiled a .301/.419/.555 slash line with 1,704 RBIs, 1,494 runs and ranks 20th all-time in OBP, 20th in OPS+ and 10th in walks. In addition, Thomas compiled a 73.6 rWAR.
The negative on Thomas was his defense, or lack of it. He played in 2,322 games, 1,351 as a DH.
He broke into pro ball in the GCL in 1989, and by 1990, he was our Minor League Player of the Year.
In October of 1990, BA’s Mark Ruda looked at Thomas, who began his big league career by going 0-for-6. Thomas turned it around quick, going 15-for-33.
“I was a little antsy,” Thomas said. “I tried to think I was in Birmingham, and just relax. I knew this is a different situation, but I calmed down.”
Thomas didn’t hit a home run in his first 53 at-bats, not exactly living up to his scouting reports.
“I have to keep the patience that I’ve had,” said Thomas, who had 18 homers at Birmingham before his call-up. “That’s the biggest problem I’ve had, to try to hit home runs in my first 10 at-bats. But the home runs will come. I’m a hitter who hits for average. I’m a line-drive hitter.”
Thomas had a chip on his shoulder entering college as he did not get drafted after finishing high school at Columbus (Ga.) High.
“The scouts didn’t like me, I guess,” he told BA’s Rubin Grant in October 1990. “They said I was a football player just playing baseball. Sure, I had some extra weight, but it was just baby fat.”
Rebuffed by baseball scouts, Thomas took a football scholarship at Auburn, where he played tight end.
“There was no doubt that I loved baseball, but I had the size, strength and speed to play football,” Thomas said. “And a lot of people told me I should play football, because I had a better chance to do something.”
Thomas, of course, draws comparisons to Bo Jackson, another two-sport star at Auburn.
“They compared us a lot,” he told BA. “I hit some incredible shots. We both had our share of long, long home runs.”
But while Jackson went on to win a Heisman, Thomas gave up football before the start of his sophomore season after hurting his knee.
In 1989, Thomas led the SEC in hitting with a .403 average and broke the single-season RBI record with 83. Still, he wasn’t among the leading candidates for the Golden Spikes Award.
That continued the “chip-on-shoulder” theme.
“I felt in college I was overshadowed,” he said. “I never got the respect I deserved. I didn’t get all the hype and publicity and I dominated the SEC the way Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro did. I was never considered for the Golden Spikes Award.”
He got the ultimate vindication on Wednesday.
|Major League Totals||.301||2322||8199||1494||2468||495||12||521||1704||1667||1397||32||.419||.555||.974|
|Minor League Totals||.304||192||635||123||193||42||6||24||116||158||119||8||.445||.502||.947|