As a White Sox fan, I wanted to love Frank Thomas the way Cubs fans loved Ernie Banks.

Frank wouldn’t allow it, though.

“The Big Hurt” was a lot of things throughout a Hall of Fame career, which was validated by vote three years ago Sunday.

He was uniquely talented, edgy, historically dominant, bitter, moody, angry and outspoken.

A warm fuzzy he was not. 

Of the Sox of his era, players of lesser talent such as Ozzie Guillen, Robin Ventura and Jack McDowell were more loved by fans than Thomas despite his enagaging smile.

It took me a while to figure out why Frank was the way he was.

After all, this was a guy who had everything.

His skills made him the most feared hitter of his era. Along with his production, came the riches. Frank was the first big-money player in White Sox history.

I saw a lot of Frank.

I was on hand for his big league debut at Milwaukee County Stadium in August of 1990 and, without stretching the bounds of credibility too much, I can safely say I witnessed most of the highs and lows either in person or on TV.

As those who know me can attest, I had a love-hate relationship with Thomas.

There were times when I was absolutely at a loss as to why this guy couldn’t smile through and revel in his greatness.

It was quite a contrast to what was going on with fan-friendly and happy-go-lucky Sammy Sosa on the other side of Chicago.

I began to understand Frank on St. Patrick’s Day 2005 when he appeared, via satellite, at the Congressional steroid hearings.

It was at that hearing that baseball’s drug problem was fully exposed and Thomas courageously declared he was and always had been clean (“I have been a major-league ballplayer for 15 years. Throughout my career, I have not used steroids. Ever,” he said.).

With known or suspected roiders stealing homers, headlines and honors, Frank had to see himself as an island of legitimacy in a sea of cheaters.

Put yourself in his place.  

If you were abiding by the rules and doing everything right but you saw others you knew were cheating passing you up, it would eat away at you, too.

I understand.

In the wake of the “Steroid Era,” history is revering Thomas’ gaudy numbers while mocking the stats of his notorious contemporaries.

Thankfully, time, accomplishments, the Hall of Fame, peace of mind and universal respect has dulled the chip on Frank’s shoulder.

This was literally on display in Cooperstown in 2014 when Frank delivered a heartfelt and rollicking speech upon his induction into the Hall of Fame.

That is the Frank I knew was in there all along!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s