Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas’ Retirement Leaves a Big Hole In Baseball’s Heart.

At 6’5″ and 260 pounds, Frank Thomas was one of the most intimidating hitters in the history of baseball.

Perhaps no athlete in sports better embodied his nickname than Frank Thomas. Dubbed “the Big Hurt” by his teammates and the media, the gargantuan Thomas (a former tight-end at Auburn) towered over the baseball landscape as the best right-handed hitter for nearly a decade. The two-time MVP possessed a rare combination of prodigious power and plate discipline that made him one of the most feared sluggers of the 1990’s.

Along with Ken Griffey Jr. and Juan Gonzalez, Thomas was part of a group of young stars that led a revival of the home run during the early 90’s, peaking in the strike-shortened 1994 season in which he hit 39 longballs in only 399 at bats. Thomas finished his career with 521 home runs, good enough for 18th all-time, though the Big Hurt’s game was much more than just big flys.

A disciplined hitter who led the American League in walks four times, Thomas’ knowledge of the strike zone was nearly unparalleled among his peers. His 1,667 walks rank 9th all-time, and combined with his .301 batting average, result in a robust .419 career OBP (21st all-time, just behind Mickey Mantle and ahead of Stan Musial and Edgar Martinez).

Though the later part of his career was marred by injuries (joining Griffey Jr. in the “what if” club), the Big Hurt still finished 15th all-time in OPS, 25th in slugging, 22nd in RBI’s and 26th in extra-base hits. Sure he made David Ortiz look like John Olerud at first base, and yeah he ran with all the grace of a bewildered water buffalo, but Thomas owned home plate with a modern-day Thor’s hammer. Frank Thomas didn’t just hit baseballs…he destroyed them.

Even more impressive than all the numbers Thomas accumulated is the fact that he played baseball the right way, refusing to substitute shortcuts or supplements for hard work. Despite being a home run hitter in the scandal-filled steroids era, the Big Hurt has never been linked to PED’s and was one of baseball’s most outspoken players about steroids, calling for strict punishments of convicted cheaters.

Frank Thomas retired from baseball as one of the 15-20 greatest hitters of all-time. His numbers alone make him a Hall-of-Fame candidate, but it’s his integrity that ensures he will go in on the first ballot. Happy trails Big Hurt; baseball was a better sport because of you.

5 Responses

  1. great ballplayer, I couldn’t agree more: also good call on selig statue, hilarious yet true.

  2. Yup. He will be missed. His press conference was pretty cool too.

    Rob Neyer agrees with your ranking as a hitter. Factoring in ballparks, each era, etc…Thomas ranks as the 20th most productive hitter all-time.

    Adding the weak aspects of Thomas’ game (base running, fielding, DH duties) and he ranks as the 45th best player of all-time. He is in the same zone as Griffey Jr., Yount, Reggie Jackson, and Rose (per Neyer’s sources).

    Frankly, I’m very surprised Reggie Jackson is in the same ranking range as Thomas and Griffey.

    Truth is, I desperately wanted to say “frankly”.

  3. Can you imagine being tackled by the guy??

  4. On a turnover of course…

  5. For the record, I went to the same high school as Frank Thomas, where he won the Georgia state baseball championship as a Sophomore in 1984. His coach was my P.E. instructor… who said he couldn’t hit when he was in high schooler.

    He learned to tear the cover off the ball at Auburn. Lets you know to not give up on young athletes.

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