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Former Auburn-Walk-on Will Be Inducted into Cooperstown Today

By on July 27th, 2014 in Baseball, News 7 Comments »
676160_LS-Frank-Thomas

A former Auburn football player will be inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame today. Frank ‘The Big Hurt’ Thomas goes in as the first ever player to be inducted from the South Eastern Conference.

Despite the threat of rain, the crowds are expected to possibly set a record of more than 40,000; due in large part to the popularity of the former White Sox first baseman as well as two former pitchers and two former managers from the Atlanta Braves.

Joining Frank will be former managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre along with Cy Young winners Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a bigger day in the history of the Atlanta Braves.” says former Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

Well maybe so but it is most certainly the biggest day ever for SEC and Auburn Baseball as a favorite son goes into the Hall. After 19 seasons in the big leagues, ‘The Big Hurt” goes in on his first year of eligibility with 84 percent of the votes.

Thomas was a two time MVP and five time All Star with the Chicago White Sox . He drove in 1704 runs, and hit 521 homeruns. He is the only player in major league history to have 7 consecutive seasons of a .300 avg, at least 100 walks, 100 runs scored, 100 RBI’s, and hit at least 20 homeruns.

I was able to watch Frank play high school ball in Columbus, Georgia. Even then you did not have to be a major league scout to recognize that he was an unusual athlete that would make a name for himself in professional sports.

He excelled in basketball, baseball, and football. He was considered by many to be one of the top tight ends in the south, making All State his senior year. I was excited when Coach Pat Dye signed him to a football scholorship in 1986.

Coach Dye said Thomas was good enough to have been a 1st Round NFL Draft Pick, but after being injured his freshman year, Dye allowed him to remain on football scholarship. He went on to walk-on for the Tiger Baseball Team and light up the SEC scoreboards with RBI’s  and homeruns. His senior year he led the SEC with a .403 batting avg, with 83 runs batted in, and  was voted the SEC MVP.

Frank is a proud Auburn man. And to this day, he gives credit to his time on The Plains for being where he’s at today. He says he owes a lot to Coach Dye for keeping him on scholarship and to Tiger Baseball Coach Hal Baird for helping to develop him.

On this day in Cooperstown it’s hard to imagine that he was ever a walk-on baseball player in college. Yet the former Auburn player will be inducted today into the most prestigious Hall of Fame in all of sports.

Don’t be surprised if (in his acceptance speech) he doesn’t give us all a “War Eagle!”


Editor’s note: Festivities are scheduled to begin at 11:00 am CST.

7 Comments

  1. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    I never got to see Frank play at Auburn but I was able to when I lived in Boston. First baseline tickets for Red Sox games were fairly easy to get back then. Thomas stood out even among major league ballplayers.

    There was a noticeable difference in the concentration level of the Red Sox defense when he was batting. The entire field was in play.The Big Hurt was a small ball threat as well as a long ball threat.

    Nineteen years in the league, 2322 games played, 2468 hits, 521 homeruns, 1704 RIBs, slugging percentage .555, fielding percentage .991. Pretty darn good.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Thanks for the added stats 3rd Gen. Guys like Frank only come along once in a couple of generations.

  2. DBAU81 says:

    I never got to see him play baseball, but did see him score the only touchdown of his college football career vs. Georgia Tech in 1986. Later that year he was also in the game on the Tillman reverse in the Iron Bowl. It’s scary to remember how much talent we had on those teams in the mid- and late 80’s.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Agree. Some of those 1983 – 1989 teams had national championship level talent. That probably made it easier for Dye to let Frank go over full time to baseball.

  3. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Really enjoyed Frank’s speech today especially when he thanked all those at Auburn University (Dye, Baird,Jacobs) that helped him become a man. I wonder if he had not gotten hurt his freshman year would he have been another two sport pro like his friend Bo, and you were right ATM, he did have a War Damn Eagle in his speech. So proud he’s an Auburn man.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Pat Dye once told me that Frank Thomas was the second greatest athlete he ever coached – Bo being the first. Based on that I’d have to say he could have done that if he had wanted to.

  4. mvhcpa says:

    I may have shared this story here before, but one early evening, I wandered into Plainsman Park to see if I could snag a free baseball from a foul (not as a souvenir, but just a free baseball to throw around). No one asked to see a ticket, so I just went in and sat in the bleachers.

    No foul balls came my way, but Big Hurt came up to the plate and hit a home run straight to center field that I did NOT see come down (okay, the sun was in the process of setting, but that ball still completely disappeared from my sight while heading up)!

    As a postscript, I left before the game was over, still without a free baseball. While walking through the parking lot, I heard the “tink” of a bat, a “whoosh” right past my ear, and a “thunk” from the side of a van parked in front of where I was walking. I looked down, and a foul ball rolled right to my feet. I grabbed it and ran.

    Michael Val
    (who still has that baseball SOMEWHERE!)

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