Wednesday, July 28, 20101:19 PM
By Chuck GarfienCSNChicago.com
For the man famously known as the "Big Hurt," Frank Thomas looks back at his legendary White Sox career and remembers the pain he inflicted on so many baseballs.
His 448 home runs, 447 doubles, 1,327 runs and 1,465 RBIs all rank No. 1 in team history.
But for all the damage he did to the White Sox record book, Thomas knows that he left behind wounds that are still being felt in certain quarters of the White Sox franchise and its fan base, lesions that the ultra-competitive Thomas acknowledges were created during his playing career because of his overwhelming will to succeed.
Feelings were hurt. Relationships soured. A giant would be humbled.
Let the healing begin.
"I was overly consumed in my career," Thomas said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet for the program "Inside Look: Frank Thomas", which debuts at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 14. "I was a focused guy. Most people couldnt understand how I could be so focused, but I was.
Although wildly popular in the 1990s, trailing only Michael Jordan, and arguably tying Sammy Sosa for Chicago sports supremacy at the time, Thomas would build a perception that he wasnt just the face of the franchise, but its arms and legs.
"People just didnt understand me. They felt like I was all about myself and all about my stats, and not worried about the team, and thats totally false."-- Frank Thomas, on the perception of him during his playing days with the White Sox"I was driven. I wanted to be the best," Thomas said. "I wanted to chase the best. People used to make a big deal about me and the stats. For me, stats meant that the team was going to win. It wasnt about me being selfish. I felt like I had to put up a certain amount of stats every day to help this team win and win consistently, day in and day out.
"I took a lot of heat for that in the past. People just didnt understand me. They felt like I was all about myself and all about my stats, and not worried about the team, and thats totally false."
Recently, Thomas has had a moment of truth as it relates to his infamous departure from the White Sox after the 2005 season. The team chose not to bring Thomas back because of a lingering foot injury, a decision delivered by general manager Kenny Williams to Franks voicemail. Thomas felt he deserved more respect than that, and shot some verbal missiles to his second home at 35th and Shields.
Williams fired back with a neutron bomb.
"Hes an idiot, hes selfish. Thats why we dont miss him," Williams said in February 2006. "And weve held it in for far too long ... hes the Oakland As problem right now."
Today, Thomas sees the notorious blow-up from a different perspective, and understands not only why the Sox didnt re-sign him, but why he and Kenny fought World War III in the first place.
"It wasnt pretty, but were both stubborn gentlemen," Thomas said. "Were both competitors. We both think we know it all. Getting myself away from it 3-4 years later, I respect what he did, because it was about this organization moving forward and I wasnt a part of the plan because they thought I was done. And I can look back, the first two months in Oakland ... I thought I was done. I was batting about .105, .110 still trying to heal. The White Sox just didnt have time to wait on that."
Thomas has to wait until 2014 to be officially inducted into baseballs Hall of Fame. His 521 home runs, .301 career batting average, and two MVP awards should get him in on the first ballot, especially considering he played the game clean during the height of the steroid era.
Others chose to take a different path to immortality.
There is still plenty of skepticism surrounding Sosa and the inflated numbers he magically produced from 1998-2001. So I posed the following question to Thomas:
If he had the power, would he vote Sosa into the Hall of Fame?
"Thats a tough one," Thomas said. "I love Sammy to death. I love him like a brother. But at this particular time, no I would not vote him in. Weve never heard anything from him. Hes never confronted the situation. Hes never explained his side. He just basically went back to the Dominican Republic and we havent heard anything from him. I really want to know what went down."
And Mark McGwire?
Tough sell. Hes admitted it, but still," said Thomas. "For me, what I put myself through for the last 18 years, busting my butt day in and day out to keep up, I dont have to dislike these guys, but Im kind of disliking what they did."
Thomas did not take steroids, but he did consume something else during his playing days, which may have been the hidden ingredient to his success. A secret he has chosen to finally reveal after so many years.
Thats right. It turns out that Thomas could not get enough of this fast-food eatery and he would go to great lengths to gobble up their chicken meals before every game, home and away.
Was he superstitious? That would be a resounding yes.
"I would go to every city and look for a Boston Market," Thomas said. "That was something I held onto for six or seven years. I would go to Boston Market every day and have the same lunch every day, but it was all about consistency. I just felt like if youre consistent with your meals every day, you can be consistent on the field every day.
One afternoon Frank ate a steak before a game. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Never again. It was Boston Market or bust.
But did they have one in every major league town?
"No, but I tried to find it," he said
"Many cities. Seattle didnt have one. Minneapolis didnt have one. So if I couldnt get Boston Market, I would call the hotel and try to have the same meal made up for lunch every day.
Now an official ambassador of the White Sox, as well as a pre and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet, Thomas has been welcomed back into the White Sox family. The team will retire his No. 35 jersey on Frank Thomas Day, Aug. 29, a day he expects will shed a few tears.
Baseball is Franks game. The Sox brought it to life. Where in baseball does he plan on spending the rest of his? Here in Chicago with the White Sox.
Where he belongs.
The Big Hurt is home.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.