Often referred to as “The Original Frank Thomas” to distinguish him from the star slugger of the 1990s of the same name, Thomas was a terrific long ball threat in the 1950s who played for some of the worst teams in baseball history. Originally a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were just as lowly in the 1950s as they are now, Frank wasn’t saved when he joined the expansion Mets–regarded as the worst team in modern baseball history.
Frank made his debut with the Pirates in 1951 but didn’t enjoy his breakout year until 1953. That season he clubbed 30 homeruns and drove in 102 runs while taking over the left field post vacated by the Pirates greatest slugger, Ralph Kiner. Frank made his first All-Star team in 1954 when he led National League left fielders in batting average. The Pirates lost 101 games as Frank was one of the few bright spots on the team.
Thomas finished second among NL left fielders in homeruns during the 1955 season and repeated as an All-Star representative for the Bucs. Showing consistency, Frank blasted an equal 25 long balls in 1956 after swatting that many in ’55. But ’56 was a season in flux for Frank who was used at third base, first base and the outfield. His best position was left field but skipper Bobby Bragan experimented with him at the infield corners and the experiment wasn’t one that paid off. Frank’s lifetime fielding percentage at third base is of the turn-your-head-and-cough variety.
As the lone power bat in the Pirates attack in 1958, Frank led the team in hits, runs, walks, homeruns, and RBI despite not having a set position. At the end of the season Danny Murtaugh replaced Bobby Bragan as skipper and he nurtured their young talent, headed by Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski. Frank wasn’t around to enjoy the Pirates success as he was shipped off to the Reds for three key pieces to their championship team of 1960: catcher Smoky Burgess, third baseman Don “The Tiger” Hoak and southpaw Harvey Haddix.
Frank only played one year with the Reds before joining the Cubs. Inconsistent in Chicago, Frank was traded to the Braves early in the 1961 season and caught fire with Milwaukee–smacking 25 homeruns after the deal. The Braves sent the expansion Mets Frank for the 1962 season and he was about all the thunder the new club had. He led National League left fielders with 34 homeruns for the expansion Mets. No other Mets player even reached half of Frank’s long ball output.
Just as bad in 1963, the Mets lost 111 games as Frank’s modest total of 60 RBI was enough to lead the club. But his power had subsided and the Mets shipped him off to the Phillies during the 1964 campaign. He played with four teams in his final two years before calling it a career.
G 1,766/R 792/H 1,671/2B 262/3B 31/HR 286/RBI 962/SB 15/BB 484/SO 894/BA .266/SA .454/OBP .320