This is the first of 10 installments of significant White Sox moments from All-Star games past.
Frank Thomas was on his way to another legendary season in 1995, earning his third straight All-Star berth by hitting .325/.485/.658 in the first half. His 21 homers were good for third in the American League, behind Mark McGwire and Mo Vaughn, both of whom had 24.
In 1995, however, the All-Star Game itself had kinda lost a lot of its charm, as far as The Big Hurt was concerned. The frustration of the season played a big role in his attitude -- the strike of 1994 cut a season short for the first-place Sox, and at the All-Star break the following year, they were 17 1/2 games back of Cleveland.
Per the Chicago Tribune on July 3, 1995:
"The first time it's a big deal," Thomas said. "The first time I made it as an alternate and last year I made it as a starter. But this year it's a wasted trip for me because we've had a long half here. No off days. But I'm happy to be there." [...]
"I don't want to say anything, but last time I checked, I'm the two-time defending MVP," Thomas said. "I'm supposed to be there. I think I've been consistent enough to be back. I've been hearing a lot about how good a season everybody else is having. I'm happy to be there. I'll stay focused and go have some fun."
Thomas couldn't have been that happy to be there, because he didn't just leave the game after the fourth inning -- he left the stadium, flying back to Chicago in order to make a team workout on his normal schedule the next day.
This was the time in his White Sox career where Thomas couldn't help but irk some subset of people with most everything he said and/or did. People listened to Thomas talk about his numbers and thought that's all he was concerned about, especially as the first-place finishes in 1993 and 1994 faded into the background.
But the 1995 All-Star Game itself summed up the way Thomas made the baseball world work for him, and on his terms. Regardless of his enthusiasm for making the trip to Texas, he worked his tail off. When he found out he was taking part in the Home Run Derby, he adjusted his batting practices leading up to it, and then beat everybody in the eight-man competition, edging out future teammate Albert Belle in the finals with two outs to spare. He owned seven of the eight longest homers in the competition.
The next day, Thomas hit a two-run blast off John Smiley in the fourth inning to give the American League a 2-0 lead. It wasn't just Thomas' first All-Star Game homer -- he was the first White Sox ever to hit one in the 62-year-old history of the exhibition game.
And then when he was replaced, he left. The National League came back to win, 3-2, but Thomas had done all he could do. The rest of the 1995 season played out the same way, with the White Sox finishing the season 68-76.
1995 also marked the release of Frank Thomas' Big Hurt Baseball for Super Nintendo. It's a game I can't ever remember playing.