Goss: USF’s Brown & Gold attracts the ‘Big Hurt’
By Dick Goss email@example.com October 18, 2013 6:48PM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:49AM
The Baseball Hall of Fame election process forever will be ripe with arguments.
Who belongs in and who doesn’t? Are statistics all that matters?
What do you do with the cheaters?
Former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas is on the ballot for the first time in 2014. He believes, as do many others, that he should be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
During his career, which ran from 1990 through 2008, the “Big Hurt” was not always viewed as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time, but that is what he was. Contemporaries such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez, who later were accused of using or proved to have used performance-enhancing drugs, posted gaudier numbers. But the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Thomas dominated the right way.
Later in his career and since his retirement, he openly has condemned those who cheated, who did not respect the game.
Local sports fans will have the opportunity to hear Thomas’ feelings on his Hall of Fame chances and his disdain for cheaters when he serves as the featured speaker at the 37th annual University of St. Francis Brown & Gold Night on Nov. 18 at the Patrick J. Sullivan Recreation Center.
“The thing that strikes me about Frank is his integrity, so he fits in perfectly with what we try to do with our athletic programs here at St. Francis,” USF director of athletics Dave Laketa said. “When all those players around him were doing it with performance-enhancing drugs, he wasn’t.
“He put up some unbelievable numbers and also did it drug free. He respects the game of baseball and has been a spokesman for the players who did it right.”
Thomas, who does pregame and postgame analysis for Sox games on Comcast SportsNet, will join a list of Chicago sports legends who have served as the featured speaker at the Brown & Gold. Among them are Bears Super Bowl XX quarterback Jim McMahon (2012), the Blackhawks’ Denis Savard (2011), the Cubs’ Ferguson Jenkins (2008) and the Bears’ Mike Ditka (1982, 2007) and Dick Butkus (1980).
Thomas, who won back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and 1994, the first American Leaguer to do that since Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961, spent 16 seasons with the Sox before finishing his career with stints in Oakland and Toronto. For 162-game seasons, he averaged .301 with 35 doubles, 36 homers, 119 RBI and 116 walks. His career on-base percentage was .419 and his slugging percentage was .555 for a .974 OPS.
He is among four players who retired with a career batting average of at least .300 and more than 1,500 RBI, 1,600-plus walks, 1,400-plus runs and 500 or more homers (he hit 521). The others in that select group are Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Thomas is the only right-handed hitter among them.
“You and I would love to be mentioned in the same breath as those three,” Laketa laughed. “You don’t usually hear Frank mentioned with all those great players, but when you look at what he accomplished, it is mind-boggling.”
Thomas (1991 to ’97) and Albert Pujols are the only players ever to have seven consecutive seasons hitting .300 with at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 RBI and 20 homers. And Thomas did it in a strike-shortened 1994 season in which he played 113 games.
He is a Hall-of-Famer, all right. He is in the running for the 75-percent vote needed to be elected in January. Greg Maddux, on the ballot for the first time; Craig Biggio, who received 68 percent last year; and Jack Morris, on the ballot for the 15th and final time, are other favorites.
The Brown & Gold includes a cash bar at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 7 and the program at 8. Tickets are $50 and reserved tables for $500 can be purchased by calling (815) 740-3464 or visiting gofightingsaints.com.