Today is the day that's been 25 years in the making -- Frank Thomas' Hall of Fame induction. He's receiving warranted attention on the eve of the ceremony, and so this Reading Room is all for him.
Since Frank Thomas was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 1989, the magazine republished its story on him from that season. Like we learned in writing about his brief minor-league career, Thomas wasn't short on confidence, even though -- or because -- he felt like evaluators overlooked him.
- Cooperstown or Canton for Frank Thomas? - chicagotribune.com
- Frank Thomas: From Auburn tight end to Cooperstown - AuburnTigers.com
- Frank Thomas remembers Auburn on way to Hall of Fame - AuburnTigers.com
Look back far enough into Thomas' career, and you'll start talking about his football career at Auburn. Here we find ourselves with some conflicting information. Thomas says football coach Pat Dye said he should pursue baseball; Thomas recalls Dye saying, "I think you'll be a very, very good football player, but you're not going to be that level that you are in baseball."
But Dye now tells the school's site, "If he had stuck with football, he'd be going in the Hall of Fame as a football player."
Either Dye is being polite, or he misspoke and the Sox gained. Either way, Paul Sullivan talked to Mike Rizzo, the scout who signed Thomas. Thomas' agent tried selling football as an alternate career, and Rizzo didn't buy it.
- Stats obsession helped push Frank Thomas to great heights - Chicago Sun-Times
- Paul Konerko lauds Frank Thomas for being ‘dialed in with his work’ - Chicago Sun-Times
Time heals all wounds, not just between Thomas and the Sox, but between Thomas and the people -- media and teammates, mainly -- who thought Thomas paid too much attention to his stats, because they realize that it's all just motivation. And hell, if my baseball card looked like Thomas', I'd want to know what my numbers were at all times, too.
Likewise, Paul Konerko expresses his admiration for Thomas. Or at least Thomas' preparation.
Joe Posnanski knows that good players' good stats are good for the team, and so he raves about Thomas' legendary eye. These two paragraphs are plenty of fun:
In his prime, Thomas was an artist — more Gwynn than McGwire, more Boggs than Sosa. He would hulk over the plate, and he looked a little bit sleepy up there, and if a pitch was an inch off the plate or an inch below the knee, he would just watch it go by. He knew what pitchers were trying to do. He was like a crocodile: He could stand there perfectly still and convince his prey that he was just a log in the water.
And then, when he unleashed, he UNLEASHED — left foot up in the air then stomp on the ground as he rushed his bat through the strike zone with such force that that the bat seemed to pull his body off the ground. His right leg sometimes came up flying behind him as he followed through. He swung the bat so hard, there did not seem any limit to how far he could hit a baseball. But, many of his best shots were not home runs — they were screaming line drives that stayed three or four feel off the ground and crashed into the wall so loud you could hear it reverberate through the stadium. Miguel Cabrera hits baseballs about as hard as Thomas did, but he is so much more balanced. The effect with Thomas was even more awesome because of how much force he put into his swing.
- No place for steroid users in the Hall of Fame - chicagotribune.com
- Big Hurt stressed, grateful as induction nears | whitesox.com: News
Even if Thomas wanted to spend his Hall of Fame speech lambasting steroid users, it would probably sound redundant after answering all the questions about it over various media sessions dating back to January. Good news -- Thomas said he's reserving his speech to thank the people along the way who made his career possible. I'm looking forward to seeing it.