Friday, February 12, 2010
Updated: February 13, 3:07 AM ET
Frank Thomas retires at 41
CHICAGO -- Saying he's "at peace" with his decision, Frank Thomas announced his retirement Friday following a 19-season career in which he hit 521 homers and won two American League MVP awards with the Chicago White Sox.
Considering he didn't play last season, the news was hardly shocking.
"It took awhile to get to this point," the 41-year-old Thomas said during a news conference at U.S. Cellular Field. "I know I hadn't played since 2008, but I had to get baseball out of my system before I made this announcement. I'm happy with this announcement. I'm at peace with it. I had one heck of a career. I'm proud of it."
With his power and ability to hit for a high average and reach base, Thomas figures to land in the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.
A five-time All-Star who batted .301 with a .419 on-base average, Thomas is tied for 18th with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey on baseball's home run list while driving in 1,704 runs. And in an era clouded by performance-enhancing drugs, he was outspoken against their use.
Thomas split his final three seasons between Oakland and Toronto, but he'll be remembered most for a 16-year run with the White Sox.
He quickly emerged as one of the best players after debuting in 1990, winning MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and a batting title in 1997 while setting club records for home runs (448) and RBIs (1,465) before a bitter split following the 2005 World Series-winning season.
Thomas was upset when the club bought out his option for $3.5 million that December, and things got particularly nasty during the 2006 spring training. He sounded off in an interview with The Daily Southtown of suburban Tinley Park, Ill., and general manager Ken Williams responded by calling him "an idiot."
Thomas was angry with the organization for portraying him as a damaged player, although injuries to his left ankle limited him to 34 games and made him a spectator as the White Sox grabbed their first World Series title since 1917.
He criticized owner Jerry Reinsdorf for not calling him before the team decided to let him go.
"We all know Kenny Williams and I had a big blowup," Thomas said. "We both moved on. When you're pretty much considered an icon in a city as a player, it's always hard to let those players go. It's never a pretty or nice scene. We've seen it over the years. You think of a Brett Favre, [Shaquille O'Neal] leaving L.A., Allen Iverson leaving Philly -- he's back in Philly, I'm happy for him. When players get to a certain level, it's never easy to say goodbye."
Thomas wound up going to Oakland and hit 39 homers with 114 RBIs in 2006 before signing an $18.12 million, two-year contract with Toronto. The Blue Jays released him early in the 2008 season, a day after he became angry after being taken out of the lineup. Thomas wound up back in Oakland, appearing in 55 games with the Athletics before a right thigh injury ended his season -- and, ultimately, his career.
The last year, he said, was "more sadness" that it didn't exactly end the way he wanted. He's not sure what the future holds, besides the White Sox retiring his No. 35 on Aug. 29. That figures to be a day to reflect, just as Friday was.
His favorite memory? That's easy. The 2005 World Series, when the White Sox won it all for the first time since 1917.
"I saw this organization go from the bottom to the top, and to be a part of that through all the years, it meant so much to me to be on that float at the parade that day," said Thomas, who was injured and missed the postseason.
His most frustrating memory? The 1994 season.
The White Sox were leading the AL Central with a 67-46 record before a players' strike that wiped out the end of the regular season and playoffs, and Thomas believes they could have won it all.
"I think we had the best team in baseball, no doubt about it," he said. "Some people consider Montreal the best team, but I think the Chicago White Sox were the best team."
He called Ozzie Guillen the "funnest" manager he played for and said, "He knew how to push buttons."
He said the toughest starters he faced were Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. The toughest reliever? Jeff Nelson.
His favorite teammate was mentor Tim Raines, and his favorite individual accomplishment was winning the batting title because "I didn't get those cheap infield hits."
More than anything, though, he said, "I'm happy and proud because I competed at a high level with all that stuff going on."
That stuff, of course, is well documented.
"It wasn't one or two. It was more than that," Thomas said. "Maybe -- who knows? -- I was the guy they were trying to imitate."