Three-time All-Star Frank Thomas has passed away, according to announcements from the Mets and Pirates. Thomas, not to be confused with the Hall of Fame designated hitter who played 16 seasons with the White Sox, played for seven teams between 1951-66.
A Pittsburgh native, Thomas signed with his hometown Pirates out of high school in 1947. He spent three-plus seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut at the tail end of the 1951 campaign. Thomas saw sporadic playing time for his first couple years before getting his first extended action during his age-24 season in 1953.
Listed at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, the right-handed hitting outfielder quickly cemented himself as an excellent power hitter. He connected on 30 home runs with a .255/.331/.505 line during his first full season, earning some down-ballot MVP votes as a result. He’d remain a staple on MVP ballots throughout his run in Pittsburgh. Thomas secured at least some support in five of the six seasons from 1953-58, earning All-Star nods in ’54, ’55 and ’58. He peaked at fourth in the voting in 1958, finishing behind Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron.
Thomas topped 20 longballs every year from 1953-58. His 161 homers over that time ranked 10th in the majors, with seven Hall of Famers in the group of nine players with more. Thomas had a cumulative .277/.335/.480 line in a little less than 3700 plate appearances for the Bucs in that time. He twice finished among the National League’s top ten in slugging and runs batted in, including a second-place finish with 109 RBI in 1958.
Over the 1958-59 offseason, Pittsburgh traded Thomas to the Reds as part of a seven-player deal that landed catcher Smoky Burgess and starter Harvey Haddix in the Steel City. He played one year in Cincinnati but struggled. The Reds dealt him to the Cubs for a three-player package headlined by reliever Bill Henry the next offseason. Thomas spent a bit more than a year with Chicago but continued to scuffle, with the Cubs dealing him to the Braves in May 1961. He righted the ship with 25 homers in 124 games for the then Milwaukee-based franchise.
The next winter, the Braves traded Thomas to the Mets. He joined the expansion club for their inaugural campaign in 1962 and connected on a team-leading 34 homers that season. Thomas would spent around two and a half seasons in Queens before being traded to the Phillies. He firmly settled into journeyman status to wrap up his career, playing with Philadelphia, Houston and second stints as a Brave and Cub before his playing career concluded in 1966.
All told, Thomas appeared in parts of 16 big league campaigns. He hit .266/.320/.454 across 1766 games. Thomas connected on 286 home runs, tying him for 177th on the all-time leaderboard. He doubled 262 times, drove in 962 runs and scored 792 times. His most productive seasons came with his hometown Pirates, though he played multiple seasons for five different clubs.
MLBTR sends our condolences to Thomas’ family, friends, former teammates and loved ones.
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