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Questions for Frank Thomas

Benjamin Grimm
Dec 08 2005 12:51 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Dec 12 2005 12:00 PM

Spun off from the other thread, which was mostly a game of Twenty Questions:


Edgy DC wrote:
Some questions for Frank Thomas:

1) You were known as a dead pull hitter. Did they ever try an infield shift against you?
________________

2) You switched teams eight times between 1959 and 1966. What was going on there? What was it about your game that made GMs think if you as tradeable? Was it because they could try fit you in at so many different positions?
________________

3) You were famous for claiming that you could catch anybody's hardest throw barehanded.

3a) It is said that you always lived up to this claim. Is that true?

3b) At what distance did you catch them?

3c) Who was the hardest thrower you caught barehanded?

3d) Did this have anything to do with you breaking your thumb in 1964?
________________

4) Casey Stengel --- idiot, genius, or both? Now that you're in your seventies, do you understand him better?
________________

5) This is a sensitive one. Playing your whole career in the National League, your era was an era of aggressive integration, can you describe what the general atmosphere was like?

5a) Even for players without a racial animus, it must have been difficult as African-American players regularly won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards through the fifties, and got the subsequent publicity. Is this accurate?

5b) Were there racial issues between yourself and Richie Allen? Or was it, as reported, merely horseplay that got out of hand? There are certainly accounts that say Allen divided the team on racial lines.

5c) Did you and Allen ever subsequently try to square things? And do you think this was a good look for him?

Valadius
Dec 08 2005 12:59 PM

What was the atmosphere like on those early Mets teams?

Who, throughout your career, was your favorite teammate and why?

G-Fafif
Dec 08 2005 01:24 PM

When the Mets presented their Ten Greatest Moments in 2000 as voted by the fans, the founding of the Mets was voted No. 10 and you were introduced to the crowd to represent the '62 Mets. What did it mean to you that almost 40 years later the fans remembered that team and what did it mean to you to be their standard-bearer and receive their (our) applause?

Zvon
Dec 08 2005 08:33 PM

I really thought this was gonna be about the current Frank Thomas, or I would have left my card earlier.



I think that pic was lifted right off his Topps card cuz I couldnt find a decent color one.

FrankThomas
Dec 12 2005 11:46 AM
Hello from Frank Thomas

Hello, I'm Frank Thomas. I was very interested to learn about the Ultimate Mets Database website, and I am very happy to participate in its online forum. I will do my best to answer any questions you may have, hopefully in a timely fashion -- I'll do my best. Since the Ultimate Mets Database website is obviously directed at the fans of the New York Mets, many of you already know who I am. But for you younger fans whose Mets recollections may not go back 40 years, I played with the Mets from their inception in 1962 until I was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on August 7th, 1964. I had a pretty good run with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950s, and I also had some success with the Cubs, Braves and Phillies, but some of my fondest memories come from my time with the Mets. New York really missed National League baseball following the departure of the Giants and Dodgers after the 1957 season, and the 1962 expansion Mets was just what the doctor ordered to fill the void. Our results on the field were historically bad and the media made fun of us, but we were good for the game of baseball. Our fans were so happy to have National League baseball back in New York that we could do no wrong in their eyes. They were truly the best fans in baseball. The 1962 season was a study in contrast for me. It was frustrating to have the team play so poorly and lose so many games, but I personally had one of the best years of my career. I hit 34 home runs in 1962, a club record that stood for years until Dave Kingman finally broke it in 1975. Considering Maris' 61 homers and Mantle's 54 in 1961, no one ever imagined that a guy named Frank Thomas would lead all of New York in home runs in 1962, but that's what happened as Maris dropped to 33 and Mantle fell to 30. I really enjoyed that. I loved playing on the big stage of New York because it's a great sports city. I also loved being in New York for other reasons. My wife Dolores and I had a large family, and there was an endless array of great things for us and our children to do in New York. The 1964 World's Fair was particularly fun for my kids. It was conducted very near the brand new Shea Stadium, and my kids seemed to go there every day. In New York I also enjoyed the benefits of celebrity that were much less prevalent in the other cities I had played -- benefits like discounts, endorsements, favors and simple on-the-street recognition. Still, the baseball was the best part, though. I loved playing at the old Polo Grounds because it was perfectly suited to my right-handed power pull hitting style. Casey Stengel was great to play for, and we had a real interesting bunch of guys play for us during my time with the Mets. Richie Ashburn, Don Zimmer, Choo Choo Coleman, Jimmy Piersall, Marv Throneberry, Sherman Jones, Gus Bell, Al Jackson, Roger Craig, Joe Christopher, and so many more. They were all guys that enriched my experience with the Mets. My years with Mets are chronicled in detail in my new book, "Kiss It Goodbye: The Frank Thomas Story". I hope you'll order it (there is an ordering link on the Ultimate Mets Database website) because there's a lot in it for Mets fans. 100 of my book's 500 pages are dedicated to my years with the Mets, and I know you'll enjoy reading about them. With that said, let me again say that it'll be a pleasure to field any questions that you have for me and I'll do my best to reply in a timely manner. And Merry Christmas from Frank "The Original One" Thomas.

KC
Dec 12 2005 11:52 AM

Wow! Welcome and thanks for joining us.

Edgy DC
Dec 12 2005 11:52 AM

Wow! That was unexpected.

Thanks, Mr. Thomas. For anyone interested, I highly recommend Kiss It Goodbye, which can be ordered here. I've only been reading it the last few nights as I nod off to sleep, but it's incredibly comprehensive and minutely indexed for researchers of this great era of baseball history. (You may need a magnifying glass for that index.) Great cover also.

Mr. Thomas, several questions exist already for you in this thread. While I'm sure many answers can be found in your book, we'd apprecate any answers you can post here.

MFS62
Dec 12 2005 11:56 AM

Welcome, Frank.
My screen name stands for Mets Fan Since 1962, so I saw you play.

I'm sure my fellow Mets fans join me in saying that we are very glad to see you here.

I usually ask new members to get up on that virtual table in the middle of the room and sing their school fight song. But in your esteemed case, I gladly make an exception. :)

Later

Edgy DC
Dec 12 2005 11:57 AM

Having read the book's first few chapters, Frank Thomas's school, such as it was, was a seminary in Ontario, so his fight song was probably in Latin.

Centerfield
Dec 12 2005 12:02 PM

Wow! Frank Thomas! Awesome!

(I hope to be able to add something a little more eloquent when I calm down)

ScarletKnight41
Dec 12 2005 12:06 PM

Thank you for joining us Mr. Thomas - it's truly an honor!

Johnny Dickshot
Dec 12 2005 12:08 PM
Edited 2 time(s), most recently on Dec 12 2005 12:14 PM

Hi and thanks for coming by!

What kind of player was Elio Chacon? In retrospect, the numbers suggest he was probably a better player than his successor and/or his opportunities with the Mets showed.

The Mets are famous for their third-base experiments. Who was the better third baseman -- you or Jim Hickman?

As a hitter, who among the Mets' starting pitchers of 1962 and 1963 would you consider the most difficult to face? Why?

The Mets brought along a number of promising but very young pitchers in the early years, especially by 64 -- Bearnarth, Locke, Kroll, Hinsley, etc. Whom do you recall as the most impressive young pitchers on these teams?

metirish
Dec 12 2005 12:08 PM

Hi Frank, welcome to the board, great first post, I'm going to order the book through the link above.Happy Christmas to you and your family Mr Thomas.

Bret Sabermetric
Dec 12 2005 12:27 PM

Hello, Mr. Thomas. I'm another fan who saw you play. I'm curious about your memories of one of your teammates in 1963 and 1964, Ron Hunt--according to some veteran players of the time, Hunt seemed to rub the veterans the wrong way, especially those on other teams. Do you remember Hunt's aggressive play (or anything else in his style) being unnecessarily abrasive, either to his opponents or to his teammates? It has been suggested that his penchant for getting hit by pitches is only partly due to his crowding the plate.

Zvon
Dec 12 2005 01:53 PM

wowzers.
Frank Thomas!
This is the koolest.
Thank you very much Mr Thomas for coming here and sharing your words with us.
That book goes on my Xmas list.

Your Met days just a tad before I started following the game, but I was very well aware of your being the Mets single season home run king when I became a Met fan.
I never realized you led NY in homers that year though.

I also loved when Flushing Meadows was the home of the 64/65 Worlds Fair. Still have the old home movies. Good times.





my question would be what size bat did you use?
and who manufactured it?

Edgy DC
Dec 12 2005 03:02 PM

Did the Mets assign you number 25 on their own, or did you request it? Did you wear 25 before or after your Mets tenure?

Valadius
Dec 12 2005 04:31 PM

Thanks for coming, Frank! Welcome!

MFS62
Dec 13 2005 06:15 AM

Frank, a few questions, with the understanding that I haven't read your book yet:
You started out with the Pirates:
Was Branch Rickey the General Manager? What was he like?
Did you get any advice from Ralph Kiner? What was it?
Kiner left the Bucs in 1953. Did they leave up Kiner's Corner in left field, or did they revert to the old dimensions - 365 feet down the left field line?
If they did, your homer totals playing half your games in Forbes Field were very impressive.

Later

Frayed Knot
Dec 13 2005 12:14 PM

Hi Frank T.,
Thanks for taking the time to "talk" to us.

There's been an increased interest in recent years in a more in-depth anaysis of baseball statistics. While you were playing, which of your own stats were you consistantly aware of and paying attention to, and do you know if there were any particular ones that the club was tracking in order to measure your worth?

Edgy DC
Dec 13 2005 02:29 PM

Having read some of your book, Mr. Thomas, a few more questions regarding race in baseball occur.

You describe going to Forbes Field in your childhood, not just to see the Pirates, but also to see the almost legendary Homestead Grays teams. Understanding that a child may not notice what an adult notices, can you tell us what was the atmosphere like at the Grays games, and how it differed from that at the Pirates games? Did the black and white patrons sit in the same sections? Approximately what percentage of the crowd was black and what percentage white?

Also, having seen Josh Gibson as a child, can you compare him as a hitter and a catcher to the stars you would go on to play with and against as a big league player?

Lastly, your legacy is mostly linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Have you continued to follow the team? What is your opinion on the current state of the team --- how they've been disadvantaged in part by the latter-day state of baseball economics; and how they've attempted to revitalize their presence with the new stadium?

Have you been back much to see the team at Three Rivers Stadium or PNC Park?

Thanks again.

Rockin' Doc
Dec 13 2005 05:58 PM

A belated wlcome to our guest, Mr. Frank Thomas. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and "chat" with our community of Mets fans. I look forward to reading your responses to many of the questions posed by our members.

TheOldMole
Dec 14 2005 08:38 AM

I was -- like MFS and other old-timers -- a huge Frank Thomas fan. He lent a touch of class to our early lovable Metsies.

TheOldMole
Dec 15 2005 06:58 PM

Another fraud?

Benjamin Grimm
Dec 15 2005 06:59 PM

Yes. I'm tempted to post his real e-mail address, but that would be an abuse of my admin rights.

Nymr83
Dec 15 2005 07:09 PM

please do it.

OlerudOwned
Dec 15 2005 07:16 PM

Yancy Street Gang wrote:
Yes. I'm tempted to post his real e-mail address, but that would be an abuse of my admin rights.
Big deal. So you'll upset some idiot who tried poorly to scam us.

Zvon
Dec 15 2005 08:53 PM

Yancy Street Gang wrote:
Yes. I'm tempted to post his real e-mail address, but that would be an abuse of my admin rights.


Would PM'ing it to everyone?
lol.

Could it really be him?
And he really wants money?

Cause it was kind of obvious he was plugging his book (which I didnt mind).

If it wasnt actually him, Id like to thank whoever it was for making me aware of the book.

;)

Benjamin Grimm
Dec 16 2005 05:24 AM

The first guy was him. The second one wasn't.

Rockin' Doc
Dec 16 2005 05:32 AM

I'm not sure which of the admins did it, but I like the strike through the imposter's post. I think it is a nice compromise between leaving the post intact and deleting it.

We don't need idiot imposters potentially offending our guests.

Zvon
Dec 16 2005 04:26 PM

="Rockin' Doc"]I'm not sure which of the admins did it, but I like the strike through the imposter's post. I think it is a nice compromise between leaving the post intact and deleting it.


It is a nice touch.

I wouldnt mind seeing a red stamp over it as well. Like:

Little Napoleon
Dec 17 2005 11:54 AM

The Frank Thomas thing is awesome. Thanks (to the real one).

FrankThomas
Dec 19 2005 03:57 PM
Re: Questions for Frank Thomas

1) You were known as a dead pull hitter. Did they ever try an infield shift against you?

Yes, teams often put a shift on me to counter my pull-hitting style. The first time I saw it was in 1952 while I was in Double-A ball with the New Orleans Pelicans. Lou Boudreau had made the concept famous with his "Ted Williams Shift", so Luke Appling, the manager with the Memphis Chicks, borrowed the idea and used it against me when we played them that season. I saw it on and off for many years, and I lost many hits because of the shift, but I, for the most part, did not play into the hands of the opposition by trying to go the other way. I thought I'd be allowing them to take me out of my game by trying to hit into the hole, so I usually stayed true to my style, and it worked out for me more often than not.
________________

2) You switched teams eight times between 1959 and 1966. What was going on there? What was it about your game that made GMs think if you as tradeable? Was it because they could try fit you in at so many different positions?

I had been with the Pirate organization for a long time, 12 years, before I was first traded following the 1958 season -- so my legacy up to that point was not one of constant change. I think that particular trade was all about Pirates general manager Joe Brown trying to do what was necessary to push Pittsburgh over the top to a pennant. At 29 years of age, I was coming off a career year in 1958, so I was at my peak trade value for the Pirates. So they shipped me off to Cincinnati in exchange for three excellent players, Burgess, Hoak and Haddix, guys that would propel Pittsburgh to a World Series title in 1960. I'd paid my dues as a key part of their rebuilding process, so I wish I'd have been there to enjoy their pennant, but it was just another lesson for me that baseball was pure business to the guys in the front office. As for why I was traded so often after that, it was a combination of things. Injuries, for one. I had a thumb injury that ruined my time in Cincinnati in 1959. I had corrective surgery to repair the problem after that season, and I would have liked a chance to redeem myself with them in 1960, but they thought it's be tough for me after my bad season in 1959, so they dealt me to the Cubs. That's where some other factors began to play a role in my being traded. Age, for one. I spent a little over a year with Chicago, but I was over 30 and battling the Cubs' youth movement, so they sent me off to Milwaukee, thinking my best days were behind me. When I got to Milwaukee, Braves manager Charlie Dressen told me that I would be his everyday left fielder, and I thrived under that atmosphere. I was promised by the Braves front office that I'd be back for 1962, but, as I'd learned on a number of occasions, you can't trust the word of most general managers. I found out while hunting in the Poconos that I had been dealt to the expansion Mets. After getting over the initial anger of being lied to by Braves GM John McHale, I embraced my new opportunity in New York. I was honored that they wanted me and had plans for me to be a major component in their new venture. By the time the Mets traded me to the Phillies late in the 1964 season, they thought they were doing me a favor. Sending a veteran on a last place team to a first-place pennant contender. I parted on great terms with the Mets. My departure from the Phillies in 1965 was a different story, however, as I was released as a direct result of my fight with Richie Allen, and I thought it was unfair. The Astros gave me a shot after that, but then dealt me to the Braves at the end of the 1965 season. The Braves had hopes of making a push for the '65 pennant, and they were hoping I could rekindle the magic I had with them in 1961 and help them the way I had helped the Phillies in 1964, but it never materialized. I was told I'd be given a shot to make their team in 1966, but they never followed through with their promise and I was released before the season opened. Durocher gave me a brief shot with the Cubs, but I couldn't get it going. I was 37 and age had caught up to me. So as you can see. I was shipped around for all sorts of varied reasons. I always tried to look at the bright side of being dealt, however. Instead of focusing on the team that was getting rid of me, I would remind myself that the team that was getting me wanted me on their ballclub.
________________

3) You were famous for claiming that you could catch anybody's hardest throw barehanded.

It's true, by happenstance I had created an open-ended challenge that I could catch anybody's hardest throw bare-handed. Bill Pierro, a teammate of mine with Waco in 1949, was a hard-throwing pitcher. He was popping off one day about how hard he could throw, so I bet him that I could catch his hardest throw bare-handed. I had tough hands from playing fast-pitch sandlot softball without a glove as a kid back in Pittsburgh, so I had no doubt that I could catch Pierro without a glove. He was a typical cocky flamethrower, so he was shocked and embarrassed when I caught his fastball bare-handed. He was even more embarrassed when I caught the next six pitches he threw. Word got around, so before long I had guys lining up to throw me their best.

3a) It is said that you always lived up to this claim. Is that true?

Yes, for the duration of my career I was challenged by players from all over the league. I took all comers and never failed to catch them.

3b) At what distance did you catch them?

The bet was that I would catch them at 60-feet six-inches. Most of the time they would throw off the mound while I would be squatting behind the plate.

3c) Who was the hardest thrower you caught barehanded?

I can't really pinpoint who was the hardest thrower I ever caught. To be honest, many hard-throwers didn't want get involved for fear of being embarrassed if I caught them -- like Pierro. The toughest to catch, however, was Don Zimmer. He thought he could beat me by playing with the rules of the challenge. He walked off twenty-feet past the mound, then got an outfielder's running start and threw a spitter to me. I still caught it, though. Zim just threw his glove up in the air and said, "You made a believer out of me!"

3d) Did this have anything to do with you breaking your thumb in 1964?

My bare-handed catching activity, in hindsight, was not the smartest thing I could have done, especially considering the thumb injury I sustained late in the 1958 season. I hurt my thumb when the sharp end of a broken bat stabbed into my hand after getting busted in on the fists by Tom Acker. Two surgeries later, I was cured. I resumed my bare-handed challenge when I recovered, and it really could have got me hurt, but it played no role in my injury with the Phillies during the stretch run of 1964. In that case I broke my thumb while diving into second base. My hand slipped under the bag and slammed into the anchoring pin. I was swinging a hot bat at the time, and we had built a large lead in the pennant race in the one month that I had been with the club since coming over in my trade from the Mets. But as everyone now knows, I went on the shelf with my busted thumb and we embarked on a now-legendary collapse that saw us lose the pennant. I've never been so bold as to say one man could lose a pennant, but I know my thumb injury really hurt us. Gene Mauch, our manager that season, did, however, go as far as to say that my injury cost us the pennant. He pointed to me at the 25-year anniversary of the 1964 Phillies and said, “There's the reason we lost the pennant!”
________________

4) Casey Stengel --- idiot, genius, or both? Now that you're in your seventies, do you understand him better?

I always said that Casey forgot more baseball than I'll ever know. As for his double-talk to the media, he knew exactly what he was doing there. He used his "Stengel-ese" as a way of putting the media attention on him, thereby deflecting it away from his players. He knew we were limited on the field, so he tried to help eliminate some of the media pressure with his antics. I loved playing for Casey.
________________

5) This is a sensitive one. Playing your whole career in the National League, your era was an era of aggressive integration, can you describe what the general atmosphere was like?

The integration of baseball didn't bother me a bit because I rubbed shoulders with black people and played ball with black players where I grew up in Pittsburgh. It was just another thing that was going on and I never really gave it too much thought.

5a) Even for players without a racial animus, it must have been difficult as African-American players regularly won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards through the fifties, and got the subsequent publicity. Is this accurate?

This may be hard to believe when you understand what a struggle the civil rights movement was, but it didn't bother me at all when black players achieved success in the 1950s. It may have bugged some guys, but not me. I had a tendency to see the basic nature of things, and to me, if you were a good player, you were a good player. It didn't matter the color of your skin.

5b) Were there racial issues between yourself and Richie Allen? Or was it, as reported, merely horseplay that got out of hand? There are certainly accounts that say Allen divided the team on racial lines.

In my book I write of my fight with Richie Allen in great detail, but I'll try and give a shorter synopsis of the incident here. The fight between me and Richie Allen, in my opinion, was not about race. There has been much made about it, but it was really very simple. I was know as an agitator, as were a lot of guys from my era. We would ride each other, but it was usually all in fun. Still, every now and then someone got mad. That's what happened in my fight with Allen. I was taking my cuts in batting practice and Richie was riding me about a failed bunt attempt I had made the night before. I made a comment to him comparing him to "Muhammad Cassius Clay" -- always running off at the mouth. That's where the rumors of a racist comment on my part come in. I did not mean it to be racially derogatory, but it hit a nerve with Allen. He challenged me to come down to his spot at third base and say it again. I told him he could come up to the plate when I was finished hitting at which point I would be glad to tell him again. He came to the plate, at which point I apologized. I bent down to put some dirt on my bat handle, and Richie sucker-punched me. I went into a defensive rage and swung my bat at Richie, and hit him on the shoulder. It escalated from there, but we were pulled apart by teammates in seconds. I apologized in the clubhouse to Richie, but he was not yet ready to accept my apology at that time. Still, we were professionals, and we went out on the field that night and did our jobs. Allen went 3-for-4 with two triples and four RBIs, and I hit a pinch-hit home run. Somebody joked that we should fight more often. When I crossed the plate after hitting my homer, I was very happy to see that Richie was the first one there to shake my hand. For the record, Allen gives his side of the fight story in his book, "Crash". His description of the events do not vary from mine, for the most part, but to be fair to him, there are two key differences. One, he does claim that my "Muhammad Clay" remark was meant to say something racial. Two, he does not claim to have sucker-punched me. He says I saw it coming. On both of those counts, however, I will have to agree to disagree with Richie. Even with our disagreements over those two issues, Allen and I were ready to move on after the game that followed the fight. The Phillies front office prevented that from taking place, however, when they released me after the game. That angered the Phillies fans and turned them against Allen. It didn't help that Richie was not allowed to tell his side of the story to the press -- manager Gene Mauch told him to say nothing about the fight to reporters. If you are interested in this topic, I would really recommend you read my book. I spend a lot of time on it and I really believe my retelling of the incident is very fair to Richie.

5c) Did you and Allen ever subsequently try to square things? And do you think this was a good look for him?

While we may still disagree on what was at the root of our fight, Richie and I did put the whole incident behind us. It took a long time, though. Because the Phillies separated us immediately by releasing me, we weren't able to smooth it out, and that's something I regretted for a long time. But when I saw Richie at the 25th anniversary reunion of the 1964 Phillies, I went up to him with my hand extended and friendship in my heart. He took my hand and said, "I know our fight has been bothering you for a long time, and it's bothered me too." He then gave me a big bear hug and said, "We are brothers."

Edgy DC
Dec 19 2005 04:10 PM

Thanks Mr. Thomas, and happy holidays to you.

I'm enjoying the heck out of your book.

ScarletKnight41
Dec 19 2005 04:52 PM

Wow!

Thank you, Mr. Thomas, for your insights and your stories. Happy Holidays and a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and your family!

TheOldMole
Dec 19 2005 05:00 PM

Mr. Frank Thomas is a very decent writer. He can express himself with words as well as with the bat.

Yes, I'll be buying his book.

And thank you, Frank -- from another Mets fan since 62.

seawolf17
Dec 19 2005 05:08 PM

Thank you for sharing your stories with us, Mr. Thomas! Please feel free to drop in any time.

Bret Sabermetric
Dec 19 2005 06:08 PM

You're as skilled with the pen as you were with the bat--it's a great pleasure to see events through your eyes, Mr. Thomas. This is a real treat for all of us, and I thank you for your generosity.

Zvon
Dec 19 2005 06:23 PM

Thank you Mr. Thomas.

I knew your place in Met history but never had the chance to be one of your fans.

I am now, though ;)

Edgy DC
Dec 19 2005 06:27 PM

Order now!

Rockin' Doc
Dec 19 2005 07:41 PM

Very interesting and enlightening writing by our esteemed guest. I hope he will continue to periodically grace us with his presence.

Edgy DC
Dec 20 2005 02:42 PM

What do you think, Yancy? Is he coming back?

Benjamin Grimm
Dec 20 2005 02:45 PM

Haven't heard anything either way. I'll check in with him and we'll see what he says.

Edgy DC
Dec 20 2005 03:06 PM

This is what I've got, edited slightly for clarity.

Valadius asks:

1) What was the atmosphere like on those early Mets teams?

2) Who, throughout your career, was your favorite teammate and why?



G-Fafif asks:

1) When the Mets presented their Ten Greatest Moments in 2000 as voted by the fans, the founding of the Mets was voted No. 10 and you were introduced to the crowd to represent the '62 Mets. What did it mean to you that almost 40 years later the fans remembered that team and what did it mean to you to be their standard-bearer and receive their (our) applause?



MFS62 asks:

Welcome, Frank. My screen name stands for Mets Fan Since 1962, so I saw you play.

I'm sure my fellow Mets fans join me in saying that we are very glad to see you here.

A few questions, with the understanding that I haven't read your book yet:

1) You started out with the Pirates: Was Branch Rickey the General Manager? What was he like?

2) Did you get any advice from Ralph Kiner? What was it?

3) Kiner left the Bucs in 1953. Did they leave up Kiner's Corner in left field, or did they revert to the old dimensions — 365 feet down the left field line? (If they did, your homer totals playing half your games in Forbes Field were very impressive.)



Johnny Dickshot asks:

1) What kind of player was Elio Chacon? In retrospect, the numbers suggest he was probably a better player than his successor and/or his opportunities with the Mets showed.

2) The Mets are famous for their third-base experiments. Who was the better third baseman -- you or Jim Hickman?

3) As a hitter, who among the Mets' starting pitchers of 1962 and 1963 would you consider the most difficult to face? Why?

4) The Mets brought along a number of promising but very young pitchers in the early years, especially by 64 — Bearnarth, Locke, Kroll, Hinsley, etc. Whom do you recall as the most impressive young pitchers on these teams?



Bret Sabermetric asks:

Hello, Mr. Thomas. I'm another fan who saw you play.

1) I'm curious about your memories of one of your teammates in 1963 and 1964, Ron Hunt — according to some veteran players of the time, Hunt seemed to rub the veterans the wrong way, especially those on other teams. Do you remember Hunt's aggressive play (or anything else in his style) being unnecessarily abrasive, either to his opponents or to his teammates?

2) It has been suggested that his penchant for getting hit by pitches is only partly due to his crowding the plate. (Implied: Is there anything to this?)



Zvon asks:

Thank you very much, Mr Thomas, for coming here and sharing your words with us. That book goes on my Xmas list.

Your Met days just a tad before I started following the game, but I was very well aware of your being the Mets single season home run king when I became a Met fan. I never realized you led NY in homers that year though.

I also loved when Flushing Meadows was the home of the 64/65 Worlds Fair. Still have the old home movies. Good times.

My questions would be

1) What size bat did you use? and

2) Who manufactured it?



Edgy DC asks:

1) Did the Mets assign you number 25 on their own, or did you request it? (If so, why 25?)

2) Did you wear 25 before or after your Mets tenure?



Frayed Knot asks:

Hi Frank T. Thanks for taking the time to "talk" to us.

1) There's been an increased interest in recent years in a more in-depth anaysis of baseball statistics. While you were playing, which of your own stats were you consistently aware of and paying attention to, and do you know if there were any particular ones that the club was tracking in order to measure your worth?



Edgy DC asks:

Having read some of your book, Mr. Thomas, a few more questions regarding race in baseball occur.

1) You describe going to Forbes Field in your childhood, not just to see the Pirates, but also to see the almost legendary Homestead Grays teams. Understanding that a child may not notice what an adult notices, can you tell us what was the atmosphere like at the Grays games, and how it differed from that at the Pirates games? Did the black and white patrons sit in the same sections? Approximately what percentage of the crowd was black and what percentage white?

2) Also, having seen Josh Gibson as a child, can you compare him as a hitter and a catcher to the stars you would go on to play with and against as a big league player?

3) Lastly, your legacy is mostly linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Have you continued to follow the team? What is your opinion on the current state of the team — how they've been disadvantaged in part by the latter-day state of baseball economics; and how they've attempted to revitalize their presence with the new stadium? Have you been back much to see the team at Three Rivers Stadium or PNC Park?

Thanks again.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:25 PM

Valadius wrote:
What was the atmosphere like on those early Mets teams?


New York was a National League town, and they were hungry for baseball. Getting the Mets and Casey Stengel -- well, the new Mets fans took to us like we were pennant winners already. They just loved us. No matter what we did on the field, they came out in droves and cheered us on. The atmosphere was electric from the very beginning, so much so that there was even excitement in the exhibition season of 1962. There was tension higher than what existed in most regular season games when we first faced-off against the Yankees down in St. Petersburg. It was the first time Casey faced his old team since they had forced him to retire following the 1960 season, so we really wanted to win that game for him. In a game about as thrilling as possible for an exhibition contest, we rallied in the 9th inning to beat the Yanks. That combined with our veteran-stacked lineup gave some people the idea that we would do fairly well in 1962, but Casey didn't buy into it. Pointing to one of our high-priced veterans, one day he told reporters, "Look at that guy. He can't hit, he can't run, and he can't throw. Of course, that's why they gave him to us." Despite Casey's realistic view of our team's ability, the players were all enthusiastic. Veterans, like me, wanted to prove they could still perform, and the young guys wanted to prove they belonged in the big leagues. No kid displayed that better than Rod Kanehl. After being buried for years in the Yankees farm system, he finally got a shot in the majors with the 1962 Mets. Rod wasn't gifted with natural talent, but he hustled and did all the fundamental things very well. The early Mets were filled with great on-field effort, we just couldn't parlay that into very many wins.

Valadius wrote:
Who, throughout your career, was your favorite teammate and why?


I really can't say who my favorite teammate was. I was friends with everybody. I was the kind of guy who didn't feel like you had to go to dinner or a movie with me to be pals, I just enjoyed the practice, game and travel camaraderie of all my teammates. A few guys that I have remained closest to are Bob Purkey, Vern Law and Bob Friend from Pittsburgh. I enjoyed Ernie Banks in Chicago, Frank Robinson in Cincinnati, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron in Milwaukee. I liked all my roommates with the Mets -- Ed Kranepool, Jim Hickman and Richie Ashburn. They were all good guys who were easy to room with.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:28 PM

G-Fafif wrote:
When the Mets presented their Ten Greatest Moments in 2000 as voted by the fans, the founding of the Mets was voted No. 10 and you were introduced to the crowd to represent the '62 Mets. What did it mean to you that almost 40 years later the fans remembered that team and what did it mean to you to be their standard-bearer and receive their (our) applause?


It was quite an honor to represent the 1962 Mets that day. I was very happy and grateful they picked me. It doesn't matter to me whether I receive accolades immediately after an achievement or 40 years later, either way I've just always enjoyed being respected for what I did on the baseball field. I'd also like to believe that I was chosen in part for what I've done off the field, too. I always gave back to the community. It's something I've always felt was worthwhile to do and I got a lot of satisfaction in helping others less fortunate than myself.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:38 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
Hi and thanks for coming by!

What kind of player was Elio Chacon? In retrospect, the numbers suggest he was probably a better player than his successor and/or his opportunities with the Mets showed.


Elio was a good little infielder. Very quick. He struggled with the language barrier, though, like a lot of the Puerto Rican players of that time, but even a negative like that resulted in a positive -- a funny story. Elio's well-known shortcomings with the English language spawned Richie Ashburn's legendary "Yo la tengo" banquet story. In nutshell, Richie used to say that he and Elio would often collide often while chasing shallow pop-ups because Chacon didn't understand Richie's English call of "I got it!" So Richie learned how to say "Yo la tengo!", Spanish for "I got it!" The first opportunity Richie had to use his new Spanish phrase it worked perfectly as Elio peeled away. Richie's story ended, however, with me running over Ashburn because I didn't understand Spanish. In my book I mentioned the story and stated that I thought Richie made the whole thing up for its comic appeal, but I recently found photographic evidence that may now support Ashburn's story. While going through some old boxes of photos I found one of me helping Richie off the field after a collision. Richie is holding his head and I have my arm around his shoulders, and a very sympathetic look on my face. There's no date or caption on the photo, so I can't completely say that it confirms Richie's story, but it definitely adds credibility to his tale. I haven't examined Chacon's numbers against the guys that came after him, but it doesn't surprise me to hear that he holds up well under that kind of comparison. One of my most vivid recollections of Elio is not how he could turn the double-play, though, it's the time he got in a fight with Willie Mays. Roger Craig tried to pick Mays off at second. In the blink of an eye Chacon was raining punches down on Mays. Chacon, who gave up a couple of inches and maybe 20 pounds to Mays, was no match for Willie, who picked up Elio and threw him to the ground like a rag doll. A brawl ensued and Elio was fined, but he said that Willie had spiked him on the pickoff attempt. He even went as far to say that Mays would spike him whenever he had the opportunity.

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
The Mets are famous for their third-base experiments. Who was the better third baseman -- you or Jim Hickman?


I really can't say which of us was the better third baseman. Jim Hickman and I were both outfielders who came in to play the infield to help the team, so there are often some drawbacks to that type of scenario. To come in to play the infield you have to learn a lot of new things. I used to take 150 ground balls a day in order to improve myself there, and for the most part I feel like I did a good job. Hickman was a youngster with a lot of potential in 1962, and he did a good job for us in the outfield. He struck out a lot and made occasional errors in the field for which the fans sometimes got on him, so it was tough on Jim because he was only 25 or so years old. Casey tried to nudge him to improve with some not-so-subtle hints in the dugout, and it would get to Jim, but Casey was just trying to help him develop. I think Casey's methodology eventually got through to Jim because he went on to a nice career.

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
As a hitter, who among the Mets' starting pitchers of 1962 and 1963 would you consider the most difficult to face? Why?


I think I'd have to say Roger Craig and Al Jackson were our toughest pitchers on the 1962-63 Mets staff. Even though they both lost 20 games in 1962, they both had good stuff. It was just an error here, a base-running mistake there, throwing to the wrong base -- those types of things would go against them even though they were pitching well. Fluke plays, too, like a ball hitting a runner sliding into third base and then the guy gets up and scores a run. It always seems like those bad things happened to them in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
The Mets brought along a number of promising but very young pitchers in the early years, especially by 64 -- Bearnarth, Locke, Kroll, Hinsley, etc. Whom do you recall as the most impressive young pitchers on these teams?


I would say that of the guys you mentioned Larry Bearnarth would definitely qualify as one of our younger pitchers who really had great stuff. He threw the ball hard and had a very good sinker-ball. He was big, about 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. Casey used to call him "Big Ben".

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:40 PM

="Zvon"]wowzers.
Frank Thomas!
This is the koolest.
Thank you very much Mr Thomas for coming here and sharing your words with us.
That book goes on my Xmas list.

Your Met days just a tad before I started following the game, but I was very well aware of your being the Mets single season home run king when I became a Met fan.
I never realized you led NY in homers that year though.

I also loved when Flushing Meadows was the home of the 64/65 Worlds Fair. Still have the old home movies. Good times.





my question would be what size bat did you use?
and who manufactured it?


Thanks for the kind words. I hit with a Louisville Slugger. I would start the season with a 35-ounce/35-inch bat and then downsize it as the season progressed. By the time the season ended I might be hitting with a 33-inch/32-ounce bat.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:42 PM

Bret Sabermetric wrote:
Hello, Mr. Thomas. I'm another fan who saw you play. I'm curious about your memories of one of your teammates in 1963 and 1964, Ron Hunt--according to some veteran players of the time, Hunt seemed to rub the veterans the wrong way, especially those on other teams. Do you remember Hunt's aggressive play (or anything else in his style) being unnecessarily abrasive, either to his opponents or to his teammates? It has been suggested that his penchant for getting hit by pitches is only partly due to his crowding the plate.

I don't recall anything negative about Ron Hunt's style of play or demeanor. Hunt played hard and wanted to win, a lot like Ty Cobb or Pete Rose. It's true that those types bothered some players, but not me. From the outside looking in, you might get the impression that his style might rub people the wrong way, but I admired his tenacity and toughness on the field. He really helped solidify second base for us in 1963, and he delivered at the plate, too. As for his penchant for getting hit by pitches, you're right, it was only partly due to his crowding the plate. Ron definitely would occasionally dive into pitches to "take one for the team". In terms of Ron's personality, I found him to be a pretty nice guy.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:44 PM

Edgy DC wrote:
Did the Mets assign you number 25 on their own, or did you request it? Did you wear 25 before or after your Mets tenure?

When I joined the Mets I had no preference for any particular uniform number, so they just assigned me number 25. I'd worn number 15 for most of my career with the Pirates, and that carried over to my year with the Reds. The Cubs assigned me number 25 when I joined them in 1960, but I wore number 12 with the 1961 Braves. I wasn't really hung up on what number I wore, but maybe the Mets assigned me number 25 because I had worn it recently in Chicago. Just guessing there, though.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:46 PM

Edgy DC wrote:
Wow! That was unexpected.

Thanks, Mr. Thomas. For anyone interested, I highly recommend Kiss It Goodbye, which can be ordered here. I've only been reading it the last few nights as I nod off to sleep, but it's incredibly comprehensive and minutely indexed for researchers of this great era of baseball history. (You may need a magnifying glass for that index.) Great cover also.

Mr. Thomas, several questions exist already for you in this thread. While I'm sure many answers can be found in your book, we'd apprecate any answers you can post here.


Thanks for the great endorsement!

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:47 PM

="Zvon"]I really thought this was gonna be about the current Frank Thomas, or I would have left my card earlier.



I think that pic was lifted right off his Topps card cuz I couldnt find a decent color one.


Nice creation -- I'll add it to my collection.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:48 PM

KC wrote:
Wow! Welcome and thanks for joining us.


My pleasure -- thanks for having me.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:50 PM

MFS62 wrote:
Welcome, Frank.
My screen name stands for Mets Fan Since 1962, so I saw you play.

I'm sure my fellow Mets fans join me in saying that we are very glad to see you here.

I usually ask new members to get up on that virtual table in the middle of the room and sing their school fight song. But in your esteemed case, I gladly make an exception. :)

Later


Thanks for the welcome -- and for waiving the fight song requirement.

FrankThomas
Dec 27 2005 03:52 PM

Centerfield wrote:
Wow! Frank Thomas! Awesome!

(I hope to be able to add something a little more eloquent when I calm down)


My pleasure to join you -- thanks.

Edgy DC
Dec 27 2005 04:23 PM

Frank Thomas, ladies and gentlemen.




The balcony is going nuts!

Edgy DC
Dec 28 2005 10:43 AM

A couple of questions that were posted late, in case you're up for an encore:

Frayed Knot asks:

Hi Frank T. Thanks for taking the time to "talk" to us.

1) There's been an increased interest in recent years in a more in-depth anaysis of baseball statistics. While you were playing, which of your own stats were you consistently aware of and paying attention to, and do you know if there were any particular ones that the club was tracking in order to measure your worth?



Edgy DC asks:

Having read some of your book, Mr. Thomas, a few more questions regarding race in baseball occur.

1) You describe going to Forbes Field in your childhood, not just to see the Pirates, but also to see the almost legendary Homestead Grays teams. Understanding that a child may not notice what an adult notices, can you tell us what was the atmosphere like at the Grays games, and how it differed from that at the Pirates games? Did the black and white patrons sit in the same sections? Approximately what percentage of the crowd was black and what percentage white?

2) Also, having seen Josh Gibson as a child, can you compare him as a hitter and a catcher to the stars you would go on to play with and against as a big league player?

3) Lastly, your legacy is mostly linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Have you continued to follow the team? What is your opinion on the current state of the team — how they've been disadvantaged in part by the latter-day state of baseball economics; and how they've attempted to revitalize their presence with the new stadium? Have you been back much to see the team at Three Rivers Stadium or PNC Park?

Thanks again.

Johnny Dickshot
Dec 28 2005 05:57 PM

Thanks Frank!

ScarletKnight41
Dec 28 2005 06:13 PM

Thank you, Mr. Thomas!

Zvon
Dec 28 2005 06:54 PM

Thanks again Mr Thomas.

This has been informative and special.

Rockin' Doc
Dec 28 2005 08:23 PM

I had hoped that Mr. Thomas would periodically drop by to offer insights and stories into his time as a major leaguer. It was great of him to answer our many questions once again.

FrankThomas
Dec 29 2005 01:51 PM

MFS62 wrote:
Frank, a few questions, with the understanding that I haven't read your book yet:
You started out with the Pirates:
Was Branch Rickey the General Manager? What was he like?
Did you get any advice from Ralph Kiner? What was it?
Kiner left the Bucs in 1953. Did they leave up Kiner's Corner in left field, or did they revert to the old dimensions - 365 feet down the left field line?
If they did, your homer totals playing half your games in Forbes Field were very impressive.

Later



In two short words, Branch Rickey was "no good". But, here's the long version -- still shortened somewhat from the detail in which I tell it in my book. I was already with the Pirate organization when Rickey joined the franchise in 1950. He signed a 5-year contract as vice president and general manager. The sole purpose of him joining the Pirates was to deliver us from the second division of the National League and maybe work some of the magic he had done in St. Louis and Brooklyn. I didn't know much about him except what was put out to the general population, so I didn't give it much thought. I came to learn, however, that he was much different than the public perception. We got off on the wrong foot right away in 1951 when I refused to sign the contract he offered me. He tried to sign me for the same salary I had made at Charleston in 1950, and I thought I deserved a raise after turning in a good season down there. While we negotiated over the next few weeks I received a good dose of the Rickey technique -- emphasize the negative aspects of your game and ignore the positive. Sometimes I'd go to see him only to find a sign on the door to his office that said, "Mr. Rickey is too busy!" Rickey got to a point where he wouldn't talk to anybody about me because he was mad at me, and it looked like I wouldn't play that season, but my manager at Charleston, Rip Sewell, stood up for me. Rip was moving up the ladder to manage the Pirates' New Orleans affiliate, and he told Rickey he wanted me to play for him there. Rickey told Rip that if he wanted me then HE had to call me because Rickey wouldn't talk to me. Rip called me and advised me to sign -- without a raise, but Rickey had promised that he'd take care of me next season if I had a good year. So, after rejecting six contracts, I signed. Despite putting up good numbers in New Orleans in 1951, Ricky often took negative shots at me in the press. When the end of the season rolled around and Rickey asked Rip who he should call up for the last few weeks, Rip suggested me. Rickey reluctantly obliged, despite the fact that I could help the Pirates. I feel he often let his ego stand in the way of the best decision to help the team win. My problems with Ricky cropped up again during spring training in 1952. To avoid another contract problem I had signed an undervalued contract with a small pay raise in January of 1952, but when I got to spring training Rickey was very critical of me. He said I was too heavy. I was heavier, but it was because he had suggested that I put on some offseason weight to counter the trend that I had of losing weight over the course of the long season. After watching me play during the early exhibition season he said that I wasn't the same player I used to be. I thought it was just his way of going after me for skipping an optional rookie camp in favor of playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. Then he decided to not to play me very often for the rest of the exhibition season and NOT to move me up, something I felt I had earned. He sent me back to New Orleans. I was angry, but I decided to work hard to put together such a good season at New Orleans that Rickey would have no choice but to bring me back up, despite the fact that he disliked me. I ended up having a huge year down at New Orleans -- 35 home runs. The press back in Pittsburgh was calling for me to be brought up to help the Pirates' anemic offense, but Rickey wouldn't budge. He finally buckled and had me called up at the conclusion of our season in New Orleans when it was too late to help the Bucs. That winter I went in to see Rickey about my 1953 contract. I reminded him of my big season at New Orleans in 1952 and the undervalued contract I had signed, then I asked him for a raise. "I can't pay major league salaries to minor leaguers," was his reply. The headline in the papers the next day quoted me saying, I WANT A RAISE OR I WILL QUIT. I lost, though. I was eventually given the ultimatum to sign for what they were offering or be cut to the major league minimum, so I signed. In spite of my solid exhibition season, Rickey was again reluctant to put me on the Pirates roster at the start of the 1953 season. But thanks to growing media pressure and Pirates manager Fred Haney pushing my cause, I made the team. After a rocky start I ended up turning in a good rookie campaign that saw me hit 30 home runs. When I went in to see Rickey about my 1954 contract, I was ready. "I'm a big leaguer now, Mr. Rickey," I told him, "and I want to be paid accordingly." I named my salary, which included a sizeable raise, but was ultimately talked into taking a few thousand less than I wanted -- with the promise that he'd take care of me next season if I could turn in another good year. I shouldn't have trusted him after having been burned on that one in the past, but I was still naïve. So I signed. Meanwhile, there was no more Kiner's Korner at Forbes Field in 1954. Too many other teams (as opposed to the Pirates) were taking advantage of it's inviting 335-foot dimension to the leftfield foul pole, so they tore it down. That meant it would now take a 365-foot poke to clear the leftfield wall, not to mention the 40-foot tall scoreboard that sat on top of it, and that was where my power was. Rickey told the press that he wasn't worried about a possible drop-off in home runs by me -- he said that hitting .300 would be more valuable to the team. So I hit .298 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs. That set the stage for relations between me and Rickey to hit an all-time low prior to the 1955 season. The first contract offer I received from Rickey called for the same salary I received in 1954. I returned it unsigned because I felt I had turned in a good season and deserved a raise. It was quite a while before we had a face-to-face meeting, but when we did it was a tense one. I called him out for not delivering on his promise. Rickey, as usual, pointed to the negative -- my drop from 30 to 23 homers. I mentioned his statement about hitting .300, and I told him to put Kiner's Korner back up and I'd hit him 50 homers a year. We were far apart in our salary squabble, and I told him I couldn't sign. He said fine -- he'd keep me out of baseball for five years. Details of our standoff made its way into the papers. That irked Rickey greatly, but he, too, was responsible for many of the leaks. My next meeting with him was an explosive one. He called me to his office, and with a swipe of his hand knocked everything off his desk. He then chastised me for talking to the press. I left without signing. I held out for 17 days before signing for much less than I had asked for. While I was out he sent me many nasty letters, unsuitable for repeating here. I couldn't believe the things he called me in those letters. Our relationship, nearly completely destroyed, was finally ruined beyond all repair when Rickey forced Fred Haney to play me while I was battling a serious illness at the beginning of the season. I struggled through that period and got off to a terrible start, and the press blamed him. He eventually called me in to see him and mentioned that the press was blaming him for my bad start. I told him that I'd warned him when I signed that he was signing an unhappy player -- plus I mentioned that he'd forced me to play when he knew I was sick. Maybe he was feeling some guilt, because he then revealed to me that he was leaving the organization at the end of the 1955 season. He promised to tell whoever replaced him NOT to cut my salary no matter what type of season I ended up having the rest of the way. It was too late, though. "I don't want any favors from you," I told him. "You know how I feel about you after the way you've treated me -- I have no respect for you. I'll take my lumps this season, but when the new general manager comes in and I have a good year, we'll work from there." I was very happy to see him follow through and step down following the 1955 season. He had dominated my career in a very negative way since he had come on board in 1950. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about him. I called him a liar, a cheat, and a hypocrite right to his face -- and he never responded because he knew I was right. I believe every move he made in baseball was to satisfy a personal goal -- not necessarily for the good of the club or baseball in general.

On to Ralph Kiner. Kiner was the longtime slugging hero of Pittsburgh, so he wasn't overly warm to me -- a new young slugger -- when I fist crossed paths with him at spring training in 1950. I was excited at being with the big leaguers, and one day I bent down and picked up one of Kiner's bats from a pile near the dugout. "That's my bat," I heard someone say, "and rookies don't touch it." I turned around and saw that it was Kiner. He eventaully warmed up a little and offered some advice. He told me to watch how the pitchers pitched him because they would probably pitch me the same way.

As for "Kiner's Korner", or "Greenberg Gardens", or whatever you want to call it, it was there for the duration of my first full year in 1953. That meant it was 335-feet down the leftfield line. They tore it down after the season, so I never had that target again while I was in Pittsburgh. It was then 365-feet down that line with the 40-foot scoreboard on top of the wall. In other words, it took a heck of a drive to hit it out down there. I wish I knew how many 360-foot outs I hit there. Nellie King, a teammate of mine in Pittsburgh who went on to broadcast with the Pirates for many years, often said he thought I'd have been a 500-homer guy had I played in a park like Ebbets Field.

MFS62
Dec 29 2005 02:01 PM

Frank,
Thank you very much for spending the time to write that detailed answer to my questions.

Your description of Branch Rickey was in keeping the reputation he had about player salary negotiations while he was in Brooklyn.
And I agree that your career numbers were dramatically hurt when they took down the inside fence at Forbes Field. I wasn't too sure when they had removed it.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year.
Later

Edgy DC
Dec 29 2005 02:05 PM

And that's the short version.

Buy the book, peeps.

Johnny Dickshot
Dec 29 2005 02:05 PM

Wow!

Another GM with a reputation for ferocity at contract time was George Weiss. I imagine he must have treated you fairly well after 1962 (at least he should have), but what about 1963? I know some of your Met teammates (Throneberry & Woodling) had their troubles with Weiss and both were soon gone.

Edgy DC
Dec 29 2005 02:21 PM

Cool fact: Thomas hit the last homer at the Polo Grounds during the Giants tenure there and hit the first one when the park was re-opened as the Mets' home.

Frayed Knot
Dec 29 2005 08:22 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Dec 31 2005 07:19 AM

Well Frank, even if you had your differences with Ralph Kiner, the one thing you have in common is your opinion of Branch Rickey. Ralph (who still does NY Met TV on a limited basis (as he did while you were playing here) repeats similar stories about dealing with Rickey. The line he often uses is that Rickey controlled all the money and all the players ... and did everything he could to keep the two apart.

Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to do these chats with us. You've obviously put a lot of thought into your answers which leads me to believe that your book will be a good read. I hadn't heard about it prior to this but now it's on my list of things to complete before the winter is out.

Zvon
Dec 29 2005 09:07 PM

Yes, Ive heard Kiner tell the same stories of how he was shortchanged and given the runaround contract wise with the Pirates. And mistreated.

Thank you for sharing that candid and detailed response Mr Thomas.

You have my utmost respect.

TheOldMole
Dec 30 2005 08:54 PM

Dick Young's nickname for Rickey was "El Cheapo."

I just ordered Frank's book.

TheOldMole
Dec 30 2005 08:57 PM

Just about to order it. Should I go to Amazon, or is there a more direct route so more of the profits go to Frank?

Edgy DC
Dec 31 2005 06:34 AM

The link on the front page of UMDB (also in this thread) was provided by Mr. Thomas's co-author (or publicist or somebody) so I'd go through that.

ScarletKnight41
Dec 31 2005 07:02 AM

I just ordered my copy.

KC
Dec 31 2005 10:12 AM

Re-reading the thread this morning, great stuff. If we can get more Mets
to do a Q & A (which I'm sure we will), Frank's detail and gentlemanlike
posts will be hard to top.

Thanks again, and best for 2006 from The CPF.

TheOldMole
Jan 01 2006 08:56 AM

Found and ordered from the Philadelphia Athletics site.

Bret Sabermetric
Jan 01 2006 10:14 AM

I wanted to mention this yesterday, but I forgot. I ordered my copy giving my middle name as "Cranepool"--it would be great if others sharing my middle name could do likewise.

KC
Jan 01 2006 12:14 PM

Kinda hard to do when the middle initial on your credit card isn't a C.

Bret Sabermetric
Jan 01 2006 01:04 PM

My e-mail receipt seemed to indicate that they had no problem that my name didn't match the name on the credit card. I'll let yuz know if the book doesn't arrive or anything, but it seems to have gone through ok.

Edgy DC
Jan 02 2006 06:13 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Jan 04 2006 10:34 AM

And it wasn't just cranky old Rickey. Many years earlier, Johnny Mize hit .349 in 1939, tops in the league. Legend has it that he was excited to talk to Rickey, who had stonewalled him in previous contract talks. But he got merely a modest raise, with Rickey noting "Well, your home-run production stayed pretty much the same."

The next year, Mize goes nuts on the ball, hitting 43 homers, 15 more than the previous year, and his career high. Rickey noted that his average dropped to .314 and asked him to take a cut.

The sad part is that the anti-trust exemption baseball had gave the Rickeys no motive to operate any differently. The players had no right to move within the league, the league had tons of leverage to block any wildcat leagues and to keep players from jumping to one, and by artificially limiting the number of franchises, supply of talented players was kept high. Rickey, having built the largest farm system, usually had a steady supply of replacements for any player with the moxy to stand up to him.

FrankThomas
Jan 04 2006 07:46 AM

Frayed Knot wrote:
Hi Frank T.,
Thanks for taking the time to "talk" to us.

There's been an increased interest in recent years in a more in-depth anaysis of baseball statistics. While you were playing, which of your own stats were you consistantly aware of and paying attention to, and do you know if there were any particular ones that the club was tracking in order to measure your worth?



I always set a goal in spring training that I wanted to hit .300, 20 to 25 home runs, and drive in 100 runs. As far as the club management, they always seemed to look at your on base percentage. They would definitely discuss your average, home runs and RBIs, too, but on base percentage was very important to them. Branch Rickey would focus on the statistic that best suited his desire NOT pay you the salary you wanted. In other words, he might tell you before the season that he was looking for you to hit X number of home runs. If you reached that total and pointed that out in your contract negotiations the next season, Rickey might say something like, "Yes, you reached X number of homers, but you average dropped X points!" You couldn't win with him.

FrankThomas
Jan 04 2006 07:49 AM

Edgy DC wrote:
Having read some of your book, Mr. Thomas, a few more questions regarding race in baseball occur.

You describe going to Forbes Field in your childhood, not just to see the Pirates, but also to see the almost legendary Homestead Grays teams. Understanding that a child may not notice what an adult notices, can you tell us what was the atmosphere like at the Grays games, and how it differed from that at the Pirates games? Did the black and white patrons sit in the same sections? Approximately what percentage of the crowd was black and what percentage white?

Also, having seen Josh Gibson as a child, can you compare him as a hitter and a catcher to the stars you would go on to play with and against as a big league player?

Lastly, your legacy is mostly linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Have you continued to follow the team? What is your opinion on the current state of the team --- how they've been disadvantaged in part by the latter-day state of baseball economics; and how they've attempted to revitalize their presence with the new stadium?

Have you been back much to see the team at Three Rivers Stadium or PNC Park?

Thanks again.



To be honest, the attendance wasn't great at the Homestead Grays games that I saw at Forbes Field. But of the crowd they did draw, I seem to remember it being pretty evenly mixed between white and black because the Grays had a pretty good club. A lot of the racial stuff just went over my head because I was caught up in the baseball. Those games left an incredible impression on me because of the talent level of the players I saw play, and the Grays had some very good players at that time. I just loved baseball, so it didn't matter to me whether I was watching great negro league players like Josh Gibson or whether I was watching white big leaguers like Rip Sewell. Both men hold a very special place in my heart. Rip helped me greatly as my manager down at Charleston in the minors, but long before that he'd made a great impression on me while he was a pitcher with the Pirates. As a kid I used to wait outside the Pirates clubhouse, hoping to meet players and get autographs. Rip came out after a game one day and got a look at me waiting there, dirty with ripped-up pants. He asked me how my pants got torn, and I told him playing baseball. Well, he put his arm around me and walked me a couple of blocks, just talking about various things. It was great. I told Rip about it after I joined his Charleston team in 1950, and he couldn't believe it. Josh Gibson holds a warm place in my memories because he gave me the first two baseballs I ever owned when I was just a kid. I was down at the railing yelling to him and he heard me and tossed me those two baseballs. The chase was on when the other kids saw me get those balls. I had to run a gauntlet of boys trying desperately to get them from me, but I made it home with my prized possessions. I'll never forget that. The current owner of the Pirates honored Josh Gibson at a game a few years ago. Gibson's son was there to accept the honor, so I went down to meet him. It was nice -- plus I got a Josh Gibson bobblehead doll! As far as how Gibson ranked against big league catchers, I'd say he was right there on a level with Roy Campanella. Both of them were good catchers, and both of them were good hitters. I saw Gibson hit two long homers over the 457-mark at Forbes Field -- both in the same game that he gave me my two baseballs.

I've always supported the Pirates, back when they were at Three Rivers Stadium and now that they're at PNC Park. I saw 13 games this past season -- they won three of them and lost 10. I think the Pirates should have done five years ago what they're doing today -- they should have brought the kids up, let them play and take their lumps. If they had done that, they'd now have a pretty good ballclub. You have to carefully mix veterans in with kids, but the veterans that they brought in were not the kind of players that suited their needs.

Edgy DC
Jan 04 2006 07:55 AM

Frank Thomas for Pirate GM.

TheOldMole
Jan 04 2006 10:31 AM

Rickey was a pioneer SABRmetrician -- I remember an article he wrote in Life explaining why batting average was an outmoded statistic and we needed to concentrate on things like OBP. It makes perfect sense that he'd do it to have more negative stats to concentrate on in contract negotiations.


Once again. Frank Thomas...wotta guy!

MFS62
Jan 06 2006 05:42 AM

TheOldMole wrote:
Rickey was a pioneer SABRmetrician -- I remember an article he wrote in Life explaining why batting average was an outmoded statistic and we needed to concentrate on things like OBP. It makes perfect sense that he'd do it to have more negative stats to concentrate on in contract negotiations.


He took note of OBP?
Then those early contract negotiations with Roberto Clemente must have been fun. Roberto had a total of 100 BB in his first five major league seasons. :)
That's probably the only thing Rickey had to use against him in those negotiations.

His agent must have countered by asking why Rickey took him in the Rule V draft in the first place.
Wish I was the proverbial fly on the wall when those negotiations were taking place.
Or did players even have agents in those days?

Later

Benjamin Grimm
Jan 06 2006 05:52 AM

It doesn't look like it. I'm up to 1957 in Frank Thomas' book, and he's always been doing his negotiating himself.

ScarletKnight41
Jan 06 2006 06:00 AM

I think that agents are a relatively recent phenomenon. Didn't Bouton discuss the emergence of agents in Ball Four? If so, then they didn't exist until the mid to late 60s, at the earliest.

seawolf17
Jan 06 2006 07:21 AM

Agents are more recent. It's mentioned in Crasnick's [u:7c9d032d9d]License To Deal[/u:7c9d032d9d] book about Matt Sosnick.

ScarletKnight41
Jan 06 2006 07:31 AM

I looked over Ball Four, where Bouton talks about negotiating for himself with the Yankees and with the Pilots. Then I rediscovered Lords of the Realm by John Helyar, which is a book Edgy gave D-Dad a while ago. I am pretty sure that this book documents the emergence of agents in baseball.

On Edit - on p. 24 of the Helyar book, he discusses the 1965 Koufax-Drysdale holdout, and mentions how they hired Bill Hayes, a "Hollywood agent." It was noteworthy that the two had an agent - I'll peruse the book a bit more, but it seems like this may have been the first instance of baseball players hiring an agent to represent them in negotiations.

On Further Edit - without re-reading the whole book, Chapter 15 discusses the relationship of salary arbitration to agents. The early to mid '70s seems to be the time period that agents became part of the baseball landscape.

Benjamin Grimm
Jan 06 2006 08:00 AM

It did seem strange reading about how Frank Thomas, just a few years into his 20's, was negotiating on his own with Branch Rickey. I think many of the younger players would have their dads or somebody negotiate for them, but even a 50-year-old dad probably won't have the negotiating skills of a seasoned GM like Branch Rickey.

Many fans hate free agency (I don't), but Frank's book reminds us of how unfair the old system was.

ScarletKnight41
Jan 06 2006 08:06 AM

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_baseball_in_the_United_States#Player_wealth_and_influence]Wikipedia [/url]has this -

] * Sports agents

By the 1970s a new generation of sports agents were hawking the talents of players who knew baseball but didn't know how the business end of the game was played. The agents broke down what the teams were generating in revenue off of the players' performances. They calculated what their player might be worth to energize a television contract, or provide more merchandise revenue, or put more fans into seats.

Frayed Knot
Jan 06 2006 08:31 AM

Agents weren't used for the simple reason that owners/GMs could and would refuse to talk to them. The teams had all the power and the player had no recourse to force them to deal with a representative.
So, except for unusual cases like Koufax/Drysdale -- who held out in tandem in an attempt to force the issue -- it wasn't until the FA era, when teams suddenly had to deal with players who had other options, that the use of an agent became a staple.

MFS62
Jan 06 2006 12:24 PM

The first baseman on my college team said he wanted to become a sports agent. His name was Barry Poris. That was in the mid 60's. In the 70's I noticed his name in an article as a player's agent. It was a Tiger, not big star (which is why I can't think of the player's name right now). Looking back on those Tiger teams, it might have been John Wockenfuss. And even if it wasn't, it was fun to type that name again.

Later

Edgy DC
Jan 06 2006 10:09 PM

Mr. Thomas, as I read, I'm getting the idea you might have made more money had you stayed on the priesthood track.

A Boy Named Seo
Jan 07 2006 01:23 PM

I'll never read the name John Wockenfuss again without thinking of Wide's Tigers preview a few years ago. The Spring Training Capsules, or whatever they're called, are probably coming up again soon.

This thread has been an absolute pleasure to read. Thanks for participating, Mr. Thomas. I'll certainly be picking the book up.

TheOldMole
Jan 07 2006 10:51 PM

Looks like Barry was [url=http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/P/barry-poris.shtml]drafted,[/url] but never made it. Probably picked up some contacts, tho

cleonjones11
Jan 08 2006 02:49 PM
A boy Named Seo

You are now thine enemy...turn in your baseball card..

Rockin' Doc
Jan 08 2006 10:09 PM

So who exactly is CJ declaring war upon?

Frayed Knot
Jan 08 2006 10:15 PM

The Triple Alliance of Sanity, Logic, and Reason..

ScarletKnight41
Jan 17 2006 08:55 AM

I'm almost done reading Kiss It Goodbye. It's interesting re-reading this thread after reading the book. As you can gather from Mr. Thomas' thoughtful answers in this thread, he is devoted to detail.

Mr. Thomas - if you're still following this thread, I have some follow-up questions. You must keep a thorough scrapbook collection of your career - how is it organized? Do you have any plans for it to be on public display?

Rockin' Doc
Jan 18 2006 05:46 AM

Whenever this thread runs it's course it needs to be made a member of the featured archives. I hope that it will contain several more visits from our gracioous guest, Frank Thomas.

Kiss It Goodbye is next up on my reading list.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:07 PM

MFS62 wrote:
Frank,
Thank you very much for spending the time to write that detailed answer to my questions.

Your description of Branch Rickey was in keeping the reputation he had about player salary negotiations while he was in Brooklyn.
And I agree that your career numbers were dramatically hurt when they took down the inside fence at Forbes Field. I wasn't too sure when they had removed it.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year.
Later


Thanks for having me here. I wasn't overly concerned about the drop-off that my home run totals would take when they tore down Greenberg Gardens, especially after Rickey assured me that it would not be held against me. But then he held it against me anyway. The only major career number that I would have liked to achieve was 300 home runs. I would have easily reached it had Greenberg Gardens never been removed, but I think I still had a good chance to get it at the end of my career had I not been somewhat blacklisted by my fight with Richie Allen.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:10 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
Wow!

Another GM with a reputation for ferocity at contract time was George Weiss. I imagine he must have treated you fairly well after 1962 (at least he should have), but what about 1963? I know some of your Met teammates (Throneberry & Woodling) had their troubles with Weiss and both were soon gone.


One would think that Weiss would treat me "fairly well" after the year I had with the Mets in 1962. I thought he would, too, so I asked for a raise prior to the 1963 season. Weiss wanted me to sign for the same salary I had made in 1962, pointing out that I had tailed off at the end of 1962. I told him it was due to a badly pulled groin muscle, an injury I played with despite the fact that I probably should have sat. I stayed in there to help the team, though. It turned out to be a sports hernia that I had operated on following the 1962 season. Weiss didn't care, though. We had a war of words in the papers as I held out. I told the writers my side of the story and Weiss told the press that they were paying me all I deserved -- "and probably more." Weiss, like most of the general managers I had to deal with, was a pup out of Rickey. He could be very nasty, even telling me that I couldn't possibly be as good as I claimed because no team had kept me for more than one season since I had left Pittsburgh. I finally had to go to Casey. I told him that Weiss wouldn't give me a raise, so Casey told me to sit tight. I finally heard from Weiss about the first week of March, at which point he reluctantly signed me for a small raise. Weiss got his money back in 1964, though, when he slashed my salary after my numbers dropped off in 1963, mostly due to injuries. He had all the leverage that in 64, so I had no choice to sign without much dickering.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:11 PM

Edgy DC wrote:
Cool fact: Thomas hit the last homer at the Polo Grounds during the Giants tenure there and hit the first one when the park was re-opened as the Mets' home.


For the record, I did homer in the last Giants game at the Polo Grounds in 1957, but I was not the last player to homer in that game. My teammate, Johnny Powers, closed out the Giants' era of the Polo Grounds with a 9th-inning shot into the rightfield seats. But you're right -- I was the first player to homer in the newly re-opened Polo Grounds during the Mets' brief run there.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:12 PM

Frayed Knot wrote:
Well Frank, even if you had your differences with Ralph Kiner, the one thing you have in common is your opinion of Branch Rickey. Ralph (who still does NY Met TV on a limited basis (as he did while you were playing here) repeats similar stories about dealing with Rickey. The line he often uses is that Rickey controlled all the money and all the players ... and did everything he could to keep the two apart.

Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to do these chats with us. You've obviously put a lot of thought into your answers which leads me to believe that your book will be a good read. I hadn't heard about it prior to this but now it's on my list of things to complete before the winter is out.


Thanks for the kind words, it's been my pleasure to take part in your forum. The Kiner quote you mention about Rickey is a great way of summing up Rickey's methods.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:13 PM

Zvon wrote:
Yes, Ive heard Kiner tell the same stories of how he was shortchanged and given the runaround contract wise with the Pirates. And mistreated.

Thank you for sharing that candid and detailed response Mr Thomas.

You have my utmost respect.


Thanks -- I've enjoyed reminiscing here.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:15 PM

TheOldMole wrote:
Dick Young's nickname for Rickey was "El Cheapo."

I just ordered Frank's book.


"El Cheapo" is a truly classic creation. I "borrowed" it on a couple of occasions in my book. Thanks for ordering -- I hope you enjoy reading it.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:16 PM

ScarletKnight41 wrote:
I just ordered my copy.


Thank you very much -- read it in good health!

Edgy DC
Jan 31 2006 03:17 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Jan 31 2006 03:25 PM

Nice to hear from you again.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:18 PM

KC wrote:
Re-reading the thread this morning, great stuff. If we can get more Mets
to do a Q & A (which I'm sure we will), Frank's detail and gentlemanlike
posts will be hard to top.

Thanks again, and best for 2006 from The CPF.


You're welcome. I'm glad you're enjoying the "thread".

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:18 PM

TheOldMole wrote:
Found and ordered from the Philadelphia Athletics site.


Thanks -- and my friend Ernie at the Philadelphia A's store thanks you, too.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:20 PM

TheOldMole wrote:
Rickey was a pioneer SABRmetrician -- I remember an article he wrote in Life explaining why batting average was an outmoded statistic and we needed to concentrate on things like OBP. It makes perfect sense that he'd do it to have more negative stats to concentrate on in contract negotiations.


Once again. Frank Thomas...wotta guy!


Thanks again.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:21 PM

MFS62 wrote:
="TheOldMole"]Rickey was a pioneer SABRmetrician -- I remember an article he wrote in Life explaining why batting average was an outmoded statistic and we needed to concentrate on things like OBP. It makes perfect sense that he'd do it to have more negative stats to concentrate on in contract negotiations.


He took note of OBP?
Then those early contract negotiations with Roberto Clemente must have been fun. Roberto had a total of 100 BB in his first five major league seasons. :)
That's probably the only thing Rickey had to use against him in those negotiations.

His agent must have countered by asking why Rickey took him in the Rule V draft in the first place.
Wish I was the proverbial fly on the wall when those negotiations were taking place.
Or did players even have agents in those days?

Later


I played through 1966 and I never had an agent. To the best of my recollection, I don't remember anyone ever having an agent during the period in which I played. I could be wrong here, but I don't remember agents coming into play until the Andy Messersmith case.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:23 PM

Edgy DC wrote:
Mr. Thomas, as I read, I'm getting the idea you might have made more money had you stayed on the priesthood track.


That's funny. One of my sons, incidentally, picked up where I left off and became a priest.

FrankThomas
Jan 31 2006 03:24 PM

A Boy Named Seo wrote:
I'll never read the name John Wockenfuss again without thinking of Wide's Tigers preview a few years ago. The Spring Training Capsules, or whatever they're called, are probably coming up again soon.

This thread has been an absolute pleasure to read. Thanks for participating, Mr. Thomas. I'll certainly be picking the book up.


Thanks very much. I've enjoyed recollecting the things we've discussed here, and I hope I can get back soon. There's a chance that I'll be doing a book signing or two at Shea Stadium this summer at a Mets game, and If it happens I'll let all of you guys at the Ultimate Mets Database know about it. Thanks again.

Zvon
Jan 31 2006 03:27 PM

="Edgy DC"]Nice to see hear from you again.

I echo edge.
Heres that card pic without the clutter.

Zvon
Jan 31 2006 03:52 PM



Dont ask coobie........
Im sure they are wearing underwear.
Well,....almost positive.

Bret Sabermetric
Feb 01 2006 05:50 AM

Mr. Thomas--

In KISS IT GOODBYE, you mention that you were selected to an All-Ugly team in the early 1950s, and late in your career you were nicknamed "Lurch" (after Ted Cassidy's Frankenstein-like character on "The Addams Family"), and in between some players referrred to you as "The Big Donkey."

Yet in every photograph, you appear to be a perfectly normal-looking or even a ruggedly handsome young man.

Why do you suppose you came in for so much of this teasing treatment? Unless you're unusualy photogenic, and are actually hideous when a camera isn't being pointed in your direction, I can only conclude that perhaps you liked to dish out some kidding yourself and this was just a way for others to retort with some insulting comment?

Did you in fact do more than your share of bench-jockeying, and verbal bantering with your fellow players? Given your acknowledgment of Richie Allen's understandable difficulty in seeing your "Muhammad Clay" remarks as banter among friends, did the level of clubhouse bantering go well beyond today's acceptable levels of good taste, typically? Do you remember any incidents of kidding and teasing that went too far for your own tastes (or for your own sensibilities today)?

I've purchased my copy of KISS IT GOODBYE through the PHiladelphia A's website as well, and it's a terrific book. For those of you who haven't yet, it came with a copy of the 1954 Philadelphia A's home schedule, backed by an illustration of Connie Mack.

cooby
Feb 01 2006 06:44 AM

Zvon wrote:
[

Dont ask coobie........
Im sure they are wearing underwear.
Well,....almost positive.



Oh, my...

Bret Sabermetric
Feb 01 2006 06:56 AM

cooby wrote:
="Zvon"][

Dont ask coobie........
Im sure they are wearing underwear.
Well,....almost positive.



Oh, my...


caption (I think) is l. to r.:

Rod Kanehl, Jim Hickman, Gil Hodges, FT, Charley Neal.

No?

ScarletKnight41
Feb 01 2006 07:31 AM

Bret Sabermetric wrote:

I've purchased my copy of KISS IT GOODBYE through the PHiladelphia A's website as well, and it's a terrific book. For those of you who haven't yet, it came with a copy of the 1954 Philadelphia A's home schedule, backed by an illustration of Connie Mack.


Mine didn't :(

Zvon
Feb 01 2006 12:43 PM

Bret Sabermetric wrote:

caption (I think) is l. to r.:

Rod Kanehl, Jim Hickman, Gil Hodges, FT, Charley Neal.

No?


Yepper.
And I thought it ironic that Hot-Rod kept his pants on. ;)

And excuse me, Mr. Thomas, but Im like the board jester.
.....Just playin my part.

cooby
Feb 02 2006 07:35 PM

Hello, Mr. Thomas, from a fellow Pennsylvanian...
Though I am a resident of the wilds of central PA, I've been a Mets fan for most of my life, though I must admit, my husband favors the Pirates :)

I don't really have any questions for you but I want to tell you how much I am enjoying your book and my favorite part is not about baseball at all, but the stories and pictures of your beautiful family.
The loss of your daughter Sharon was a terrible tragedy for your family, and I want to extend my sympathy.
Maybe it's because I am a mom myself, but the pictures and accounts of your children and wife are very heartwarming to me.

God bless you all.

Zvon
Feb 12 2006 09:53 PM

I wish I found this pic while Mr Thomas was visiting last.
Well, better late that never.

metirish
Feb 12 2006 09:56 PM

Great pic....excellent...I still have to read his book, I am in a book reading funk...

FrankThomas
Mar 01 2006 02:06 PM

Bret Sabermetric wrote:
Mr. Thomas--

In KISS IT GOODBYE, you mention that you were selected to an All-Ugly team in the early 1950s, and late in your career you were nicknamed "Lurch" (after Ted Cassidy's Frankenstein-like character on "The Addams Family"), and in between some players referrred to you as "The Big Donkey."

Yet in every photograph, you appear to be a perfectly normal-looking or even a ruggedly handsome young man.

Why do you suppose you came in for so much of this teasing treatment? Unless you're unusualy photogenic, and are actually hideous when a camera isn't being pointed in your direction, I can only conclude that perhaps you liked to dish out some kidding yourself and this was just a way for others to retort with some insulting comment?

Did you in fact do more than your share of bench-jockeying, and verbal bantering with your fellow players? Given your acknowledgment of Richie Allen's understandable difficulty in seeing your "Muhammad Clay" remarks as banter among friends, did the level of clubhouse bantering go well beyond today's acceptable levels of good taste, typically? Do you remember any incidents of kidding and teasing that went too far for your own tastes (or for your own sensibilities today)?

I've purchased my copy of KISS IT GOODBYE through the PHiladelphia A's website as well, and it's a terrific book. For those of you who haven't yet, it came with a copy of the 1954 Philadelphia A's home schedule, backed by an illustration of Connie Mack.



I have no idea why I came in for more-than-average teasing when it came to my appearance. Ballplayers always came up with an All-Ugly team, Mulligan, and things like that. Unless you had movie-star good looks, you were fair game for winning those tongue-in-cheek honors, so I took no offense at it. I'm honored that you referred to me as ruggedly handsome, or at least normal looking, but I guess I always just considered myself a regular joe as far as my appearance was concerned. Fortunately my wife didn't agree with the All-Ugly honors! As for the "Big Donkey" nickname, Bob Prince, the Pirates announcer, gave me that one for the simple reason that I was one of the bigger players of that time. It certainly is not the most flattering moniker, but if there was an underlying meaning to it other than merely a reference to my size, I was unaware of it. I heard that one plenty and never was offended by it. As for the nickname "Lurch", the first time I ever heard about that one was in Richie Allen's book. No one ever called me that while we were playing, at least not to my face. Even if they had, I wouldn't have been upset by it. It's all part of the needling that goes on between teammates. I'm really not around ballclubs of today enough to know to what level they like to kid each other, so I can't really say if we went beyond the new guys' accepted level of good taste. It's true that many things that were accepted in the 1950s are no longer accepted today, so you have to look at those things in the context of their time. We definitely needled each other quite a bit in my day, though. I consider myself one of the greatest agitators of all time. I used to get Bob Friend extremely worked up with my agitation. Just when he was at the breaking point I'd walk away and he'd go out and take it out on the opposition. And we're still great friends. I did it for a purpose with Bob -- to make him relax a little bit. He was very nervous before games, and I think it helped take his mind off his anxiety. The bottom line is that it was never done with malice. It was always supposed to be in good fun. I would only needle the guys who also liked to agitate, but I tended to step it up on those who agitated but couldn't take it when you gave it back to them. In all the years I played ball, I never saw it get out of hand until the Richie Allen incident.

FrankThomas
Mar 01 2006 02:07 PM

cooby wrote:
Hello, Mr. Thomas, from a fellow Pennsylvanian...
Though I am a resident of the wilds of central PA, I've been a Mets fan for most of my life, though I must admit, my husband favors the Pirates :)

I don't really have any questions for you but I want to tell you how much I am enjoying your book and my favorite part is not about baseball at all, but the stories and pictures of your beautiful family.
The loss of your daughter Sharon was a terrible tragedy for your family, and I want to extend my sympathy.
Maybe it's because I am a mom myself, but the pictures and accounts of your children and wife are very heartwarming to me.

God bless you all.


Thank you very much for your sentiments. I'm a family man, so I really appreciate it when people compliment my family. We lost my daughter Sharon many years ago, but the pain of her loss will always be with us, especially each New Year's Eve. We forged ahead, though, out of necessity, but it still warms my heart when someone like you extends your kindness to us on Sharon's behalf. Thank you.

FrankThomas
Mar 01 2006 02:09 PM

="Zvon"]I wish I found this pic while Mr Thomas was visiting last.
Well, better late that never.



That's a great picture. I actually considered using it on the cover of my book, but the owner (Corbis) wanted a king's ransom to license it to me. We passed and went with a photo supplied by The Sporting News.

FrankThomas
Mar 01 2006 02:12 PM

ScarletKnight41 wrote:
I'm almost done reading Kiss It Goodbye. It's interesting re-reading this thread after reading the book. As you can gather from Mr. Thomas' thoughtful answers in this thread, he is devoted to detail.

Mr. Thomas - if you're still following this thread, I have some follow-up questions. You must keep a thorough scrapbook collection of your career - how is it organized? Do you have any plans for it to be on public display?


You're right -- I do have a thorough scrapbook collection of my career from my first year in the minor leagues through my last year in 1966. It's 20 or so books, mostly organized chronologically because we put them together on a daily basis as my career unfolded. Mostly my wife, Dolores (Dodo), put them together. She would clip things out of the local papers while I was on the road. I would clip out things from out-of-town papers while on roadtrips, then send them to her. At the moment I have no plans to publicly display them. Many of them would require some serious restoration before anything like that could take place. Unfortunately many of the clippings have deteriorated or come unglued. My plans are to hand them down to my kids, so maybe they will undertake that enormous task. It's possible that we could donate them to the Hall of Fame, too, but I'll leave that decision to the kids.

FrankThomas
Mar 01 2006 02:16 PM
Thanks to Ultimate Mets Database Members

I've enjoyed participating in this bulletin board project with the Ultimate Mets Database. I've noticed more than a few of you mentioning that you've ordered my book, and I want to thank you for that. I'd like to send all of you who've ordered my book a little item of thanks -- a signed baseball card of me. A few years ago I had a couple thousand full-color cards made of me. The card features a vintage photo of me from 1962 or 1963 in my Mets uniform. Stats and stuff on the back. I'd attach an image of it here for you to see, but to be honest, I have no idea how to do that! If you've ordered my book and would like an autographed copy of the card, just send me your name and address. Make sure you jot down a note that you are a member of the Ultimate Mets Database, you've already ordered my book, and that you'd like to receive a free autographed card. Please mail your request to me in care of the publisher of my book:

Frank Thomas
c/o Pepperpot Productions
P.O. Box 1016
Dunkirk, MD 20754

I'll look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again.

ScarletKnight41
Mar 01 2006 02:21 PM

Dear Mr. Thomas,

As always, thank you for your participation in this thread and for your insights. And thank you for the offer of an autographed card - that's very kind of you!

seawolf17
Mar 01 2006 02:23 PM

Frank-

Thanks again for taking the time to stop in and speak with us. I just picked up the book recently, and I'm working my way through it now. I love the fact that you have all these great recollections of your career; you're right when you say that baseball books don't all have to be about being outrageous.

Your recollections about your negotiations with Branch Rickey are fascinating; we, the fans, blast players today for making millions of dollars, but considering where players came from, it's clear to say they've come a long way. I'm also fascinated how the fans passed the hat to give players tips for hitting home runs! (Like that would happen today!) Loving the book so far... I'm up through your 1953 season. Thanks again for writing it, and thanks for joining us.

cleonjones11
Mar 01 2006 05:55 PM
Pennsylvania

Too many fat people...who cares about Frank Thomas other than his family.Geez..we're that bored?

cleonjones11
Mar 01 2006 05:57 PM
Seaver

He would probablyagree with me on Pennsylvania!

Frayed Knot
Mar 01 2006 09:02 PM

Do you EVER have anything intelligent to say?

Zvon
Mar 01 2006 10:37 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Mar 10 2006 06:23 PM

FrankThomas wrote:

That's a great picture. I actually considered using it on the cover of my book, but the owner (Corbis) wanted a king's ransom to license it to me. We passed and went with a photo supplied by The Sporting News.


How about that.
Thats where I got it from alright, Corbis stock photos.
They are pretty liberal with web usage of their images.
Go figure.

Zvon
Mar 01 2006 10:42 PM
Re: Pennsylvania

cleonjones11 wrote:
Too many fat people...who cares about Frank Thomas other than his family.Geez..we're that bored?


whats your problem Cleon?

When we have a guest if you dont have nothing nice to say why dont you just go jump in a van and drive.

Rockin' Doc
Mar 05 2006 07:40 PM

If you remove all rude and insensitive remarks from CJ's posts, then all that remains is unintelligible.

Edgy DC
Mar 06 2006 07:22 PM

Thanks for the generous offer, Mr. Thomas.

ScarletKnight41
Mar 10 2006 11:35 AM

Dear Mr. Thomas - your baseball card arrived today. Thank you - I'm going to give it to my son as soon as he gets home from school, and I know that it's going to make him very happy :)