A Frank farewell

A Frank farewell

Posted by scotgreg on Fri, 02/12/2010 - 00:24
Got an interesting e-mail a couple weeks ago. As the White Sox were pondering whether or not to bring Jim Thome back for another season and sentiment started swelling for the classy slugger, one reader asked me why Frank Thomas never got similar love. It really made me think. There is no question Frank is the greatest hitter in Sox history, and you've got to believe he's going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer five years hence. He played for the White Sox much longer than Thome (16 seasons to 4) and holds 12 club records, including most home runs (448) and RBI (1,465). How dominant was the Big Hurt for the Sox? Paul Konerko ranks second in HR, and he's at 319. Luke Appling ranks second in RBI, 349 behind Thomas. So where is all of the love? I covered Frank for 12 seasons and watched him destroy opposing pitchers year after year. Best hitter, by far, I've ever seen. But as he mentioned Thursday night before announcing his retirement, it wasn't always a smooth ride. “I've had fun throughout my career here and believe me, it wasn't all roses,” Thomas said. “I really tried to be a perfect ballplayer and it doesn't work. I spent too much of my precious time in this town trying to be perfect. I know there have been some trying times ... but Chicago made me who I am. “I tell people that day in and day out. It's called pro sports. There are a lot of great times, there are a lot of bad times. A true warrior survives and I did survive.” Thomas did survive, even though he didn't exactly go out with a bang after failing to find any work at all last season. Hitting always seemed to come easy for Frank, but there were also the non-stop adventures off the field. I remember my first spring training, the Michael Jordan Experience in 1994. The Sox just finished a Grapefruit League game against the Twins and former shortstop/current manager Ozzie Guillen was going off on Thomas for failing to come up with a throw in the dirt at first base. “No wonder I never win any Gold Gloves!” Guillen chirped at Thomas. “You are a %$# first baseman. Dig those balls out!!” On the verge of tears, Thomas quietly dressed and was out the door. Ozzie was kidding around (I think), but his rant clearly exposed Thomas' sensitive side. There was more, much more. *Frank going AWOL for what, two or three training camps in a row? *Frank going at it with manager Jerry Manuel during one spring training where he was present after producing a doctor's note excusing him for the dreaded shuttle run. *Frank failing to take batting practice on a steamy July day in 2002, which drew some rare wrath from Konerko. Here's another one... Frank was finishing up a monster year in 2003, and I asked him to fill out an awards ballot for a national publication. “The only rule,” I told him, “is you can't vote for yourself.” “But I'm the MVP,” Frank shot back. “You just might be Frank,” I countered. “But you can't vote for yourself.” He grumbled something and proceeded to fill out the ballot. When Frank gave it back to me, I looked at the line next to MVP. It was blank. “I'm the MVP,” Frank said again. “If I can't get it, nobody else is either.” I missed Frank a lot in 2006, the season after he left the White Sox and had a serious parting exchange with GM Kenny Williams. The clubhouse just wasn't the same without his unique candor. He's retired now, but I'm guessing Frank will be back with the Sox soon. The statue has likely been ordered already, and his uniform No. 35 is going to be retired, unless Omar Vizquel wants to wear it after the all-star break. Congrats on a great _ and colorful _ career Frank.
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