I wonder when Oh when will it end The Big Hurt The Big Hurrrrrrt
—MISS TONI FISHER, 1959
The cab pulled up to the players' entrance of Yankee Stadium last Thursday afternoon, and out stepped..."Frank! Frank!" As the fans beseeched him, Frank Thomas worked his way along the police barricades, courteously signing balls and cards. Then he walked down a flight of stairs to the clubhouse level, where he encountered two cleaning men mopping the floor at the foot of the steps.
"Why, it's The Big Hurt!" said one.
"And he's been hurtin' us big," said the other.
As all three men laughed, each worker took hold of one of Thomas's elbows and gingerly guided him across the slick floor. After all, I they had greatness at their fingertips.
Like Miss Toni Fisher, American League pitchers wonder when The Big Hurt will end. After the New York Yankees lost 5-3 to the Chicago White Sox last Wednesday night in a game in which Thomas, the White Sox first baseman, homered for the second straight night and drove in the winning run for the second straight night, a group of Yankees sat in the clubhouse trying to figure out how to pitch to hint. Finally someone offered this sage advice: "We should just walk him every time up. It can't get any worse."
Nor can the 25-year-old Thomas get much better. Through Sunday he was hitting .321 with a franchise-record 40 home runs—including four last week—and a major-league-leading 120 RBIs. Were it not for The Big O, Toronto Blue Jay first baseman John Olerud, who was hitting .379 at week's end, Thomas would have a nice shot at the Triple Crown.
His on-base percentage of .427 was fourth in the American League, and his slugging percentage of .633 was third. He had only eight more strikeouts than homers. One of Thomas's most intriguing—and impressive—stats was this: 15 first-inning home runs. "I call them my school bells," he says. "The offense is in session." The Los Angeles Dodgers have just seven.
In the City of Big Shoulders, only Michael Jordan's are bigger than those of the 6'5", 257-pound Thomas, who is, by the way, a 46 Long. He hasn't carried Chicago to the top of the American League West by himself; it only seems that way. Says Ken (Hawk) Harrelson, the White Sox broadcaster who gave Thomas his nickname two years ago, "Someday soon we will see a team intentionally walk Frank with the bases loaded. And when they do, I will stand up and applaud them for their intelligence. In my 30 years in this game I have never seen anyone like him. In another 30 years we may be talking about Frank Thomas in the same way we talk about Ted Williams."
It's only early September, but Thomas has already had the equal of the MVP year Williams had in 1946 (.342, 38 homers and 123 RBIs). Even though Thomas is a righthanded hitter, he does share with The Thumper certain traits: an uncanny batting eye, for one, and the patience of Job, for another. Other names that Thomas evokes from admirers are Hank Aaron, Dick Allen, Jim Rice.