Big Hurt decides to call it a career
Longtime White Sox star Thomas is 18th on home run list
CHICAGO -- He was aptly dubbed the "Big Hurt" by long-time White Sox television play-by-play announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.
And his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame would have been enough for Frank Thomas to earn that nickname. The authority with which he put the bat on to baseball, though, made the moniker even more fitting.
For 19 seasons, Thomas tore apart opposing hurlers with his immense power and keen batting eye to the tune of a .301 average, an amazing .419 on-base percentage, .555 slugging percentage, 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs. Sixteen of those years came on the South Side of Chicago, so it's only fitting Thomas announced the end to what looks like a Hall of Fame-bound career Thursday night in the same city.
Thomas was in town to receive lifetime achievement recognition from the Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards to benefit the March of Dimes at the Hilton Chicago. The big man told MLB.com a few hours prior to receiving this honor how he was done playing baseball and moving on to other ventures.
"No, I'm done, I'm done," said Thomas, who figures to talk more about his decision during a press conference Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. "I've had a great career. I've had 20 Spring Trainings, 21 Spring Trainings, and I'm happy where I'm at right now.
"Life goes on. I have a 15-month old baby, and I've spent a lot of time with my [four] kids during this last year and a half. I caught up with the time that I missed away from them. I'm really happy. I'm taking care of myself and I feel good."
The 2008 season marked the last time Thomas suited up, hitting .240 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs while splitting time between the A's and Blue Jays. His last truly Thomas-like showing came in 2006 during his first year with Oakland, when he hit .270 with 39 home runs and 114 RBIs.
Even after his injury-plagued struggles in 2008, Thomas felt as if he could contribute during the 2009 campaign but never found any takers on the open market. As he watches friends such as Jermaine Dye go through the same free-agent angst during this offseason, Thomas decided to put baseball behind him.
"I still could play right now, but with this body and I'm 41," said Thomas, who has not officially filed retirement papers. "I can walk away and say I was just as good at the end as I was at the beginning, probably better because I was much smarter.
"It's just one of those things that you can't play forever. I've had time to focus on what my future would be over the last year and a half and I have some interesting things going on. I'm doing well."
Moving into the broadcasting field is one option for Thomas, who received extremely positive reviews for his pregame and postgame work with Comcast during coverage of the Crosstown Showdown last year. Thomas mentioned other business ventures, without going into detail, but ruled out moving into the coaching profession.
"That's not in my future right now, not at all," said Thomas of coaching. "I have other things in my life I really want to do."
A look at the White Sox record book on the offensive end shows Thomas atop no fewer than 12 separate categories, including 448 home runs, 1,466 walks, 1,327 runs scored and 1,465 RBIs. The first baseman/designated hitter joins Jimmie Foxx and Albert Pujols as the only first basemen in baseball history to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards, doing so in 1993 and 1994.
He was selected to five All-Star Games, took home four Silver Slugger honors and captured the 1997 batting title with a .347 average. From 1991-97, Thomas drew at least 100 walks, scored at least 100 runs, drove in at least 100 runs, batted at least .300 and launched at least 30 home runs in every year but 1992, when he hit 24 home runs.
Some pundits have termed that stretch as impressive as any for a right-handed hitter in the history of baseball, although Pujols' current numbers might add fodder to that critique. Thomas won't disagree with this particular praise.
"When you get to this point, you have to realize I've had a special, special career," Thomas said. "Thank God I've had a career only a handful could have.
"There's no sadness. I tell people I was blessed to be 41 years old and people were talking about, 'Will you still play?' No, I had a long run, over 23 years involved with professional baseball."
During that time, Thomas' legacy has grown because he went about his work the right way. If not for injuries that left him with 659 at-bats combined between the 2001, '04, '05 and '08 seasons, his already impressive numbers would be even greater.
"I'm happy my career is what it is," said Thomas, who finished with 1,667 walks and just 1,397 strikeouts. "I'm happy to say that Frank Thomas had an incredible career through hard work."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.