Big numbers for the Big Hurt

Frank Thomas debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Frank Thomas. (Ron Vesely/NBHOF Library)

Even in the context of one of the greatest offensive ages in the history of the game, Frank Thomas’ numbers are staggering. 

One combination, however, stands out: No other man in baseball history has strung together seven straight seasons of 20-plus homers, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 average. Not Ruth, not Gehrig, not Williams. 

Frank Thomas’ place in history is secure. Now he’s got the chance for a place in Cooperstown. 

“Ten years into (my career), my goal was to get into the Hall of Fame,” Thomas said in 2007. “It’s a rough road. It takes a lot of big games.” 

Thomas debuts on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this fall. Thomas is one of 36 players on the 2014 BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2014. 

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 8. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown. 

[Scouting reports on Frank Thomas]

Born May 27, 1968 in Columbus, Ga., Thomas starred in both baseball and football in high school but went undrafted in his first year eligible for the MLB Draft in 1986. Thomas then enrolled at Auburn University with the intention of playing football, and the 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end caught three passes as a freshman that fall. 

But Thomas still yearned to play baseball and starred for Auburn in 1987, hitting .359. He played for the United States team in the Pan-Am Games that summer, but was injured playing football in the fall. 

From that point on, Thomas was a baseball player. 

Thomas was named the Southeastern Conference’s Most Valuable Player in his junior season of 1989, and left school that summer when he was taken with the seventh overall pick by the White Sox. One year later, Thomas made his big league debut as an August call-up, hitting .330 with 31 RBI in 60 games. He would stay ensconced as the White Sox’s first baseman/designated hitter for the next 15 years and quickly earned the nickname “The Big Hurt” for the damage he inflicted on opposing pitchers. 

In his first full season in 1991, Thomas batted .318 with 32 homers, 104 runs scored, 109 RBI and an American League-leading 138 walks and a .453 on-base percentage. After leading the league in doubles, walks and on-base percentage in 1992, Thomas won his first Most Valuable Player Award the following year with a .317 average, 41 homers and 128 RBI for a White Sox team that won the AL West title. He was a unanimous choice in the MVP voting, garnering all 28 first-place votes. 

The next year, Thomas was even better – hitting .353 with 38 home runs, 101 RBI and a league-best 106 runs scored in just 113 games in that strike-shortened season. He was again named AL MVP, becoming just the American League sixth player (after Jimmie Foxx, Hal Newhouser, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards. 

Thomas continued to pile up the numbers in the 1990s, winning a batting title in 1997 with a .347 average. His streak of seven-straight 100 RBI, 100 walk, 20 homer and .300 average seasons ended the next year, but Thomas posted another one of those seasons in 2000 – leaving him with eight for his career. 

Only Ruth (12) and Gehrig (9) ever had more, and only Williams and Barry Bonds had as many. 

Thomas battled injuries in 2001, 2004 and 2005 – unable to appear in half Chicago’s games in any of those seasons. Following the 2005 season – where the White Sox won the World Series despite Thomas appearing in just 34 games – the Sox bought out the rest of Thomas’ contract and parted ways with their all-time leader in runs, doubles, home runs, total bases and walks. 

Thomas moved on to the A’s and then the Blue Jays, where he totaled 65 home runs and 209 RBI over two seasons from 2006-07. Injuries slowed him in 2008 at the age of 40, and he retired in February of 2010 after sitting out the 2009 season. 

“His professionalism was tremendous,” said then-A’s manager Ken Macha. “He instilled an attitude in our team that it didn’t matter who was out there, we could beat them.” 

His final numbers: 521 home runs (18th all-time) with five seasons with at least 40 home runs; 1,704 RBI (22nd all-time), a .301 career batting average with a .419 on-base percentage (19th all-time), including four seasons where he led the league in OBP; 1,667 walks (10th all-time) with four league-leading seasons in bases on balls; five All-Star Game selections; four Silver Slugger Awards; and nine Top 10 finishes in the Al MVP voting, including his back-to-back wins in 1993 and 1994. 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
1990 22 CHW 60 240 191 39 63 11 3 7 31 0 1 44 54 .330 .454 .529
1991 23 CHW 158 701 559 104 178 31 2 32 109 1 2 138 112 .318 .453 .553
1992 24 CHW 160 711 573 108 185 46 2 24 115 6 3 122 88 .323 .439 .536
1993 25 CHW 153 676 549 106 174 36 0 41 128 4 2 112 54 .317 .426 .607
1994 26 CHW 113 517 399 106 141 34 1 38 101 2 3 109 61 .353 .487 .729
1995 27 CHW 145 647 493 102 152 27 0 40 111 3 2 136 74 .308 .454 .606
1996 28 CHW 141 649 527 110 184 26 0 40 134 1 1 109 70 .349 .459 .626
1997 29 CHW 146 649 530 110 184 35 0 35 125 1 1 109 69 .347 .456 .611
1998 30 CHW 160 712 585 109 155 35 2 29 109 7 0 110 93 .265 .381 .480
1999 31 CHW 135 590 486 74 148 36 0 15 77 3 3 87 66 .305 .414 .471
2000 32 CHW 159 707 582 115 191 44 0 43 143 1 3 112 94 .328 .436 .625
2001 33 CHW 20 79 68 8 15 3 0 4 10 0 0 10 12 .221 .316 .441
2002 34 CHW 148 628 523 77 132 29 1 28 92 3 0 88 115 .252 .361 .472
2003 35 CHW 153 662 546 87 146 35 0 42 105 0 0 100 115 .267 .390 .562
2004 36 CHW 74 311 240 53 65 16 0 18 49 0 2 64 57 .271 .434 .563
2005 37 CHW 34 124 105 19 23 3 0 12 26 0 0 16 31 .219 .315 .590
2006 38 OAK 137 559 466 77 126 11 0 39 114 0 0 81 81 .270 .381 .545
2007 39 TOR 155 624 531 63 147 30 0 26 95 0 0 81 94 .277 .377 .480
2008 40 TOT 71 289 246 27 59 7 1 8 30 0 0 39 57 .240 .349 .374
2008 40 TOR 16 72 60 7 10 1 0 3 11 0 0 11 13 .167 .306 .333
2008 40 OAK 55 217 186 20 49 6 1 5 19 0 0 28 44 .263 .364 .387
19 Yrs 2322 10075 8199 1494 2468 495 12 521 1704 32 23 1667 1397 .301 .419 .555

 

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum