Frank Thomas, a 6'3" outfielder from Pittsburgh, PA, was originally signed by the Pirates as a free agent in 1947. Born June 11, 1929, the product of Mount Carmel College (Niagra Falls) started out his professional career with the Tallahassee Pirates of the Class "D" Georgia/Florida League. He hit .305, clubbing 24 home runs in 212 games over two seasons with the club. After starting the 1949 season with Tallahassee, he later graduated to the Class "B" Waco Pirates of the Big State League (.342 over 20 games) and the Class "B" Davenport Pirates of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (.233 over 13 games). 1950 would see him start with the Class "A" South Atlantic League Charleston Rebels (.308, 11 home runs in 82 games) before getting called up to the Class "AA" Southern Association New Orleans Pelicans for parts of three seasons (.293, 61 home runs in 326 games).
Thomas would make his first Major League appearance in August, 1951. He appeared in 39 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .264 with two home runs and 16 RBI. His best game of the season was on August 22nd, as he went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run, a triple and an RBI as the Pirates lost to the Boston Braves, 5-4. He batted third and fifth in the lineup out of center field. Pittsburgh finished 64-90, just two games in front of the cellar dwelling Chicago Cubs.
1952 would see Thomas spend most of the season with the Pelicans (above), appearing with the Bucs for six games near the end of the season. He hit two-for-21 in his short stay. He made his presence known in 1953, staying with the club the entire season. In 128 contests, he hit .255 with 30 round trippers (7th in the NL) and 102 RBI. He also showed his value in the field, ranking second in the National League with 17 outfield assists. Most of his time in the lineup was spent batting either fourth or fifth out of center field, although he also filled in at the other two outfield positions. The Pirates posted a 50-104 record, 55 games out of the pennant. Thomas placed 18th in the season ending NL Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Thomas earned his first all-star invitation in 1954, hitting a career best .298 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI in 153 games. He led the NL with 14 outfield assists and 10 hit by pitch at bats, placing second with 11 sacrifice flies. On July 25th, he went 4-for-4 with two runs and a solo home run in a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Over the season he batted cleanup most of the time out of center field, with occasional starts in left field. He finished the season 13th in the NL MVP vote. Pittsburgh ended the campaign 44 games out of first, with a 53-101 record.
1955 would see Thomas appear in his second consecutive all-star game. He batted .245 with 25 home runs and 72 RBI in 142 games. For the first time, he made most of his starts in left field, filling in at center. He mostly batted cleanup, with a few starts at 5th and 6th in the order. On July 19th, he sent 4-for-8 with a walk and the game winning hit as the Pirates beat the Milwaukee Braves 4-3 in 19 innings. He placed 23rd in the NL MVP Award voting. The Pirates again finished in last, 38.5 games out of first with a 60-94 record.
Thomas hit .282 in 1956 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI. He led the NL with 157 games played. He was moved to third base for 105 games, still making a substantial amount of starts in left field, batting mostly cleanup. On September 24th, he went 4-for-5 with a three run homer in a 6-5 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. For the first time as a full time member of the Pirates, he did not collect a single MVP vote. The Pirates finished 66-88, but finally escaped the cellar, as they finished six games ahead of the Cubs.
In 1957, Thomas hit .290 with 23 home runs and an NL tenth best 89 RBI in 151 games, finishing 19th in the NL MVP voting. He led the league with 12 sacrifice flies. He had an NL second best 14 outfield assists. Thomas also expanded his repertoire of defensive positions played, earning substantial playing time at left field, right field, third base, and for the first time, first base. He went 3-for-3 with a solo shot and a sacrifice fly on June 16th, as the Bucs defeated the Cubs, 5-4. On September 28th, he scored the only run of the game with a deep shot to left field in the top of the ninth inning as the Pirates beat the New York Giants, 1-0. Pittsburgh finished tied for last in the NL with the Cubs, at 62-92.
In 1958, Thomas set new career highs with an NL second best 35 home runs and 109 RBI. He hit .281 in 149 contests, batting mostly fifth and playing third base. On June 7th, he went 3-for-4 with a walk, hitting two home run and collecting five RBI in a 8-6 win over the Cubs. June 11th would see him go 2-for-5 with two home runs and seven RBI as the Bucs cruised over the San Francisco Giants, 14-6. On August 16th, he went 3-for-3 with three home runs, six RBI and four runs scored in a 13-4 win over the Reds. He finished the season fourth in NL MVP voting, the highest he would finish through his career. He would also play in his third all-star game. For the first time in his career, he played on a winning team, as the Pirates finished the season with an 84-70 record, finishing second in the NL eight games behind the Milwaukee Braves.
Prior to 1959 spring training, Thomas was traded along with Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton and John Powers to the Cincinnati Reds for Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak. Thomas played one season in Cincinnati (108 games, .225, 12 home runs, 47 RBI), later playing with the Cubs (155 games, .238, 23 home runs, 70 RBI), the Braves (139 games, .279, 25 home runs, 68 RBI, the New York Mets (342 games, 52 home runs, 173 RBI), the Philadelphia Phillies (74 games, .282, eight home runs, 33 RBI), and the Houston Astros (23 games, .172, three home runs, nine RBI).
All-Time Statline: Eight seasons, 925 games, .275/.333/.474, 950-for-3455, 473 runs, 159 doubles, 20 triples, 163 home runs, 562 RBI, nine stolen bases, 293 walks, 465 strikeouts, 11.7 wins above replacement.
According the the SABR.ORG bio:
Frank Thomas still lives in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, in a two-story, five-bedroom house just outside his hometown of Pittsburgh. He and his wife, Dolores, have eight children and twelve grandchildren. Mark, their youngest son, is a priest. Frank spends his retirement playing in charity golf tournaments and used to play in old-timers games in Pittsburgh when they had them. Frank is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Alumni Association and has participated in a number of fantasy baseball camps. As a 65-year-old, during the 1994 All-Star festivities at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Frank drove one deep into the gap.