Friday, June 3, 2011
#5) FRANK THOMAS
Frank Thomas came to the New York Mets when he was traded by the Milwaukee Braves in exchange for Gus Bell on November 28, 1961. Thomas was one of the original Mets of the 1962 season and the starting left fielder for the first game played at Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964. The slugger set the Mets club record for home runs in a season with 34 in 1962. He also led the club with 94 RBIs in that inaugural season.
Frank was an accomplished fielder who could also be used at first and third base. His fielding prowess had begun as a kid playing fast pitch softball without the aid of any glove. Thomas was known to often later challenge major league players to throw fastballs that he would catch barehanded. "One time when I was with the Mets, we were playing the Giants. Richie Ashburn, who was our centerfielder, bet Willie Mays $100 that I could catch his hardest throw barehanded." Frank recalled to Harold Friend in a 2010 interview. "Willie took the challenge and I caught his first throw, but he said that it didn't count because he hadn't warmed up. Then he said the bet should be $10, not for $100. Willie warmed up, and I caught his throw. Willie is great."
Thomas was traded from the New York Mets to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Gary Kroll and Wayne Graham on August 7, 1964. The Phillies acquired the veteran to help them during a late-season pennant race with the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately Frank broke his thumb sliding back into first base on September 8th and was unable to complete the season.
Following the success of the recent Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas, the senior Frank began using the title of "The Original" to distinguish between the two players. "We had a great ball club." Thomas said of the Mets. "We just didn't have any pitching. If we could have had a closer like they have today, we might have been in the thick of a pennant race. It was great playing in New York. I really enjoyed playing for Casey Stengel. I've always said that he probably forgot more baseball than I'll ever know."
After his playing career he has enjoyed time with his wife of over 50 years, their eight children and many grandchildren. Frank has been involved with the Baseball Assistance Team organization and has appeared at many fan events in the Pittsburgh area.
Frank Thomas signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on October 3, 2008.