Icing on the cake...time to seal the deal on a Hall of Fame legacy.
3 contracts, 2 teams. The Big Hurt polishes his resume before awaiting the call.
2006 Oakland Atheltics
As the face of the Franchise, many fans expected to see Frank Thomas hit 500 home runs and retire in the gray and black, so it came as a shock to many when the White Sox heads decided to cut ties with the big man after the 2005 Championship run. 16 years in the White Sox organization had ended bitterly, but the game hadn't left Frank and he had no intention of leaving the game.
The Big Hurt's experience and availability were a perfect fit for the operations of Oakland Money Baller Billy Beane, and Frank would make the most of his year with his former Western Division rivals from gggg
early in his career. Frank entered the season just 52 home runs shy of 500, and despite having had a typical April, he finished the first month of ball with 5 home runs. By the end of May he was running on all cylinders. In his first game against his former team on May 22nd, Frank received a standing ovation from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd as he came to the plate for his first at bat. Moments later on the 3-1 pitch, Frank blasted a deep fly ball turned home run, and again the Cell rumbled with applause. In the top of the 5th, the score 3-0 in the A's favor, Frank did it again, ripping an 0-1 pitch in similar style; this time, however, for his second trip around the bags, the Cell was less gracious. The A's 4-0 lead would not remain and the Sox would come back to win 5-4 in 10, but Frank had put on a show and earned some level of retribution moving forward.
With Frank at the helm, Oakland would win 93 games and take first in the West. In the ALDS against Minnesota, Thomas batted .500, with two solo home runs in the opener under the Metrodome. The A's, having swept the Twins, met Detroit in the AL Championship Series, but fell to the Tigers in 4.
The change of scenery had been great for Frank as well; he ended the season as team leader in home runs, RBIs, OBP, and slugging percentage. Now just 13 home runs shy of 500, it was all but certain the Big Hurt had a major career milestone on the horizon.
2007-08 Toronto Blue Jays
Frank Thomas' stellar 2006 campaign earned him the Player's Choice Comeback Player of the Year and the 4th spot in AL MVP voting. It also meant serious signing consideration for the 2007 year. Looking for a multi-year contract, Frank signed with Toronto for two years and a nice signing bonus, with options for a third.
With contract in hand, Frank had visions of 13 being his lucky number and 2007 wouldn't disappoint.
Through the first two months of the season, Frank averaged 4 home runs a month and entered June needing just 5 round trips to become the 21st member of the 500 Home Run Club. Ominously, by June 16th, the Big Man hadn't put the hurt on any additional baseballs, and his total remained 8 on the year. This reality aside, Frank would gain membership into the illusive club he sought before the month's end.
On June 17th Frank swatted homer #496 - his 9th on the year - and one week later on June 24th, he would be just one home run swing away from writing his place into the history books. Finally, on June 28th, 2007 - beneath the same canvas dome under which he had hit his first, 17 years prior - Big Frank took the 1-2 pitch from Minnesota's Carlos Silva yard.
Frank's 500th was his 13th for the season, and he'd finish the year with 13 more. In many respects, the Big Hurt's '07 season bested his previous year. Frank started more games and batted higher than he had since 2000, going .277 across 155 matches. While his home run totals had fallen, his plate discipline remained true, as his walk totals were consistent and multi-base hit totals increased. Frank wasn't finished yet.
Blue Jays fans beamed with pride for their veteran slugger, and the winter between Frank's first and second seasons with the team allowed time for visions of greatness in the 2008 season.
Against Boston, in the first home series of the '08 schedule, Frank knocked two balls deep, including a grand slam on April 6th, the final 4 run shot of his career. While Frank was off to his generally slow April start, he had driven in 11 runs across 16 games, so it came as a
500th Major League Home Run
Under the HHH Metrodome. (6/28/2007)
surprise when he was benched in favor of Matt Stairs at DH. By not allowing Thomas playing time, the Jays were, in effect, preventing him from meeting his contractual obligation of 426 plate appearances, which would give him a total of 1050 over the life of his two year deal. Displeasure on both sides of the aisle lead to a mutual release from Toronto on April 20th, and Frank hung his shingle, showing a desire to continue playing ball.
2008 Oakland Athletics
Four days after his split from Toronto, Frank inked terms with former boss Billy Beane, allowing Frank to head west for the remainder of the season. Frank Thomas' final career home run came on August 9th, against Detroit's Armando Galarraga. The Big Hurt took the first pitch of his first look yard to deep left-center field, notching career home run number 521 on his bat, tying him with greats Willie McCovey and Ted Williams, to whom he had often been compared during his early years in the League. August 29th, in his final Major League game, Frank, the "right-handed Ted Williams," went 2 for 4, scoring one run in a loss, under the Metrodome where he had seen so much career success.