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On this day 14 years ago, Frank Thomas signed a one-day contract with the White Sox and retired. Six months later (above), The Big Hurt was honored by the club in a pregame ceremony.
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Today in White Sox History: February 12

Goodbye, Frank

Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

1955

Chet Lemon, who would become the best defensive center fielder in White Sox history, is born in Jackson, Miss.

Moving to Los Angeles at a young age, Lemon played youth baseball with Hall-of-Famers Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith, and was drafted in the first round out of high school at age 17 by Oakland. However, just three years later the A’s shipped Lemon and Dave Hamilton to the White Sox for Stan Bahnsen and Skip Pitlock. (The shortsightedness of the deal can be forgiven in that Oakland was trying for a fourth consecutive World Series title.)

Ironically, the future defensive wizard was poor with the glove at his drafted positions, shortstop-third base. After the White Sox acquired him and Chuck Tanner noticed how aggressive Lemon was at third base in his short call-up to the White Sox in 1975, the White Sox moved him to center — where he had played just 10 games in his life.

After a strong rookie year in 1976 that saw Lemon make the Topps Rookie All-Star Team, he exploded in 1977. At just age 22, Lemon slugged with the best of the South Side Hit Men (38 doubles, 19 homers, .804 OPS). Moreover, he set AL records for both putouts (411) and chances (431) — records that have yet to be broken.

Lemon remained the best two-way player on the White Sox and was at times the only star on the roster during the lean years of the late 1970s and early 1980s. After agreeing to a contract extension but then pulling out after the White Sox signed Carlton Fisk in 1981 to a bigger deal, the White Sox shipped Lemon to the Detroit Tigers after the 1981 season. He went on to win a World Series with Detroit in 1984.

For his major league career, Lemon ranks ninth all-time in range factor in center field (2.83) and 29th all-time as an outfielder overall (2.65). JAWS ranks Lemon as the 21st-best center fielder ever to play the game.

In White Sox annals, Lemon is the 18th-best position player all-time (24.9 WAR) and ranks 16th in offensive win percentage (.610).


2010

After spending the 2009 season waiting for a call from any of 30 teams, White Sox slugger Frank Thomas signs a one-day contract with his home club and officially announces his retirement.

Frank spent the first 16 seasons of his career in Chicago, accumulating a team second-best 73.8 WAR and still ranking in the Top 10 in a number of all-time White Sox categories:

  • 74.9 offensive WAR (1st)
  • .427 on-base percentage (1st)
  • .568 slugging percentage (1st)
  • .995 OPS (1st)
  • 161 OPS+ (1st)
  • 1,327 runs (1st)
  • 447 doubles (1st)
  • 448 home runs (1st)
  • 906 extra base hits (1st)
  • 1,465 RBIs (1st)
  • 1,466 walks (1st)
  • 68.3 WAR (2nd)
  • 3,949 total bases (2nd)
  • 3,673 times on base (2nd)
  • 15.5 AB/HR (2nd)
  • 2,136 hits (4th)
  • 1,959 games (4th)
  • 1,230 singles (7th)
  • .307 batting average (tied for 10th)

He finished in the Top 8 of AL MVP voting for the first eight full seasons of his career, winning the award outright in 1993 and 1994. He had a third MVP essentially stolen from him in 2000 by Jason Giambi, who later admitted to taking steroids in his award-winning year. And perhaps most extraordinary in terms of award achievements is the fact that the year after Thomas left the White Sox (2006), his comeback season saw him finish fourth in MVP voting — at age 38.

For his full career, Thomas hit better than .300 (.301) with an .974 OPS and 156 OPS+. He led all of baseball for at least one season in games, runs, doubles, walks, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, sacrifice flies and intentional walks.

Thomas was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, in 2014, earning 83.7% of the vote. Through the 2023 season, Thomas still sits high on many all-time career leaderboards:

  • 1,667 walks (10th)
  • 4.79 MVP shares (14th)
  • .974 OPS (18th)
  • 521 home runs (20th)
  • .419 on-base percentage (22nd)
  • .555 slugging percentage (23rd)
  • 156 OPS+ (25th)
  • 1,704 RBIs (26th)
  • 1,028 extra-base hits (33rd)
  • 15.7 AB/HR (34th)
  • 4,222 times on base (35th)
  • 80.4 offensive WAR (38th)
  • 4,550 total bases (47th)
  • 73.8 WAR (56th among position players, 88th overall)
  • 495 doubles (70th)
  • 1,494 runs (76th)

Coincidentally, Thomas’ fellow future Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine also announced his retirement on this day.

The White Sox would honor Thomas with a retired number and ceremony before the Aug. 29, 2010 game against the Yankees.


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