Frank Thomas was one of the biggest baseball stars of the 1990s. He was born on May 27, 1968 in Columbus, Georgia and attended Columbus High School. He was the fifth of six children born to Frank and Charlie Mae Thomas. He was very close to his family, and being one of the youngest siblings, he was pampered with attention and affection. When Thomas was 10, his little sister Pamela died of leukemia, which affected him a great deal.
At school, he excelled at both football and baseball, and knew that he wanted to be a professional baseball player by the age of 12. His parents never pressured him to make that decision, nor could they conceive of him being a sports star, as they belonged to an ordinary middle class background. Thomas, however, had made up his mind and worked single mindedly to achieve it. He won a scholarship to The Brookstone School, a private college preparatory institution in his hometown. After spending three years there, he returned to the public school system as he wanted to play against the more competitive athletes there. As a high school sophomore, he was a dominant hitter and helped his team to win a state championship. His impressive performance continued all throughout his high school years; it was not just limited to baseball, but included football and basketball as well.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Thomas was not selected in the 1986 amateur draft. He was shocked and upset, and instead decided to accept a football scholarship at Auburn University. Once there, he proved himself to the baseball coach and joined the baseball team. He turned entirely from football to baseball, and had an exceptional batting average. He hoped to be selected in the 1988 Summer Olympics team, but yet again he failed to make the final squad. Finally, however, in 1989, he was selected for the 1989 squad by the Chicago White Sox, and in 1990 he was moved to the major leagues. Right off the bat, he maintained an outstanding average, and finished his first full season with the Sox as the third in line for the Most Valuable Player Award, an honor he did win in 1993 and then again the following year.
In a short span of time, Frank Thomas became the most coveted player around. His salary was bumped from $120,000 to upwards of $1 million, along with performance bonuses, numerous endorsement deals and leading league figures. An unfortunate occurrence in 1994 prevented him from winning the coveted “Triple Crown” that is, leading the league in average, home runs, and runs batted in. He could not win it because a players’ strike ended the season prematurely but he did receive a second MVP award. He finished in the top 10 running for the MVP award every year until 1997. After a few years of injuries, Thomas was unable to make it to the 2005 squad which won the World Series. However, his enormous contribution was acknowledged by both players and fans alike when he was invited to throw the first ceremonial pitch in the first game of the series. He received a standing ovation and a ceremonial World Series ring when the White Sox won the series.
Frank Thomas was released from the White Sox after playing for 16 seasons. He then signed a one year contract with the Oakland Athletics and a 2 year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. He briefly returned to Oakland, and then signed a one day contract with the White Sox, before announcing his retirement with them. His jersey number 35 was retired by the White Sox upon Thomas’s retirement from the game. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.