Thank You, Frank Thomas
I’m really slow on plugging your blogs, but I’m almost done with my first one. I promise. But today, I need to blog about the first baseball player I remember watching, as he retired today.
As you have learned over the course of this blog, I started learning baseball and enjoying it in July 2004. I had graduated high school and went to a Giants game, and I fell in love with a player before I fell in love with the game. But when I was eight years old, back in 1994, I remembered watching a player for the White Sox. I remembered my brother had a poster of him.
At eight years old with no knowledge of how baseball is played, I watched a few games. At that time, I had no idea I was watching one of the greatest White Sox of all time. I watched. I attempted to learn. And I didn’t care.
When I started watching baseball again and actually caring about the sport, I didn’t watch tons of games. Frank’s season had ended by the time I was able to watch White Sox games in 2004. In 2005, he was injured while I was in school, and I spent the summer in San Francisco, so I wasn’t able to watch any Sox games when he played again in 2005. So when it mattered to me, I never saw Frank play. I only watched when I didn’t care.
It kills me that I grew up in a city where one of the best played, and I didn’t care enough to watch. But I know that the White Sox were lucky enough to have him for fifteen years. I could have watched; I should have watched. But I didn’t. Despite that fact, he was my first baseball memory.
Frank’s last at-bat with the White Sox was July 20, 2005. My nineteenth birthday. The Sox lost to Detroit, 8-6, and Frank went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. But Frank had an amazing career. He was a five-time All-Star. He was a four-time Silver Slugger winner. He was the AL MVP twice. He was the 2000 AL Comeback Player of the Year. He was the 1995 Home Run Derby champion. And he won a World Series in 2005. He has a career batting average of .301, and he hit 521 home runs. With the White Sox, he has a .307 batting average and hit 448 home runs, the most home runs by a White Sox player.
In addition to being generally awesome, Frank started advocating drug testing in 1995. After he hit his 500th home run, he said, “It means a lot to me because I did it the right way” (Wikipedia). I wonder what the state of baseball would be like if Major League Baseball had started testing when Frank started advocating. I can’t say it would be better. I can’t say it would be worse. All I can say is I believe he was clean.
Thank you, Frank Thomas. Thank you for being my first baseball memory. Thank you for playing for the greatest franchise in the world. Thank you for playing this game the way it was meant to be played: clean. Thank you for everything. I can’t wait to see you in Cooperstown in 2014, as I highly believe you are a first ballot Hall of Famer.