1990 Chicago White Sox: Big Show and No Looking Back
On August 2nd, 1990, the White Sox franchise would change forever.
In the hours leading up to game one of an August 2nd, 1990 doubleheader against Milwaukee, the White Sox Front Office had placed pitcher Eric King on the 15 day disabled list, had optioned outfielder Rodney McCray to Triple-A Vancouver, and had placed outfielder Dave Fallager on waivers for an unconditional release. These decisions opened up the roster for pitcher Alex Fernandez, infielder Craig Grebeck, and the pre-season phenom Frank Thomas.
The decision to call Frank Thomas up from Birmingham with 60 games left in the schedule was an easy one - it had been the plan for the entire season - and with the White Sox 4 games behind Oakland in the division, the timing was perfect for adding a jolt to the Pale Hose's offense. Frank had had arguably the best Spring outing in Major League Baseball, much less the White Sox organization. Frank's March of '90 performance had translated into 109 games of dominating Double-A magistery that, despite his call up with 35 games left in the Baron's season, would ultimately award him the Minor League Player of the Year Award. Bigger and better opportunities were knocking.
Thursday's game 1 proved to be a solid first Major League outing for pitcher Fernandez, who pitched a strong 5-hit performance, allowing just 2 runs; a homer in the 5th from the Brewer's Gary Sheffield. Fernandez left the game at the end of the 7th with the Sox up 3-2, but a sac fly from Milwaukee's Dave Parker would score Robin Yount in the bottom of the 8th.
In the top of the 9th - 1 man on, 1 out, with the game tied - Frank Thomas came to bat, hitless on the day, but with no strike outs. A wild pitch and a ground out by Carlton Fisk had advanced Ivan Calderon to 3rd, and the go-ahead run was in scoring position. Frank made solid contact with the ball, but it was intercepted on the ground and thrown toward home in an attempt to kill the run. Calderon scored and Frank advanced to 1st on the Fielder's Choice. Despite going hitless on the day, Big Frank had ultimately driven in the game winning run and scored his first Major League RBI.
First Major League Hit
Frank's first "official" hit wouldn't come until Friday, the 3rd. Still visiting the Brewer's County Stadium, the Sox were down 2-0 at the top of the 7th with 2 outs when Frank came to bat. With Calderon on 3rd and Fisk on 1st, Frank delivered a crushing 1-0 blow down the right field line. The hit sailed long and became caught up in crosswinds, ultimately hitting the top of the wall and careening over the head of right fielder Rob Deer. The deflection off the wall allowed both Calderon and Fisk to score, stopping Frank at 3rd. His first Major League hit was recorded as a tying 2 run triple. Next to the plate, Steve Lyons would drive Frank home, and he scored the game winning run.
Nearly a home run, but not, Frank would have to wait a few more games to set off fireworks.
On Tuesday, August 28th, 1990, the White Sox were coming off of three straight losses, and in the top of the 9th, after blowing a 5-2 lead, the chances of breaking the streak were bleak. Down 12-5 at the Metrodome, Frank Thomas lead off the inning sending a 2-0 pitch from Gary Wayne deep into left field, bringing the score to 12-6 and adding a glimmer of hope to the game's outcome. Unfortunately, the next three men would go three-up-three-down, and the Pale Hose would earn loss number 4 of a 5 game slide. The lone highlight of the game was Big Frank's home run, a career first, and despite having been in the league for nearly a month without a round trip, Frank was batting .325 and would finish August with one more dinger, a 3 run game winner, against the Angels on the 31st. In September, Frank would add 5 more trips around the bags and elevate his season average to .330.
Across 60 games, Frank would have 63 total hits, including 11 doubles and 3 triples, he would earn 44 free bases, he would drive in 31 runs and score 39, and garner an on-base-percentage of .454. By acquiring 191 at bats, Frank would qualify for the American League Rookie of the Year voting. Despite besting all rookies with 130 or more plate appearances - the requirement for consideration - in percentage categories and achieving great numerical stats, voters overlooked Thomas for the 1990 Award, and he would not qualify for 1991 consideration. Even so, history has shown Frank to be the best rookie of the 1990 season and the only shining star from the 1989 Amateur Draft.
D. B. T. H.
First Major League Home Run
Wearing the more indentifiable #35. (8/28/90)