- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
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[Ed's Note: It's Frank Thomas' birthday today, his 40th, which deserves 40 reminders of why he's the man. So here are some options for when you raise the glass to the Big Hurt.]
-You've played so long people forgot how great you were while young. You won back to back MVP Award's before you were 27, the baseball age that should signifiy the start of the prime years. Here, here!
-You are the best Pillow Fight commercial actor in history, bar none! Oh, and there's more.
-You cracked the bigs at 22, even though four years earlier, 891 kids were drafted, many from high school, and you were passed by. That's determination!
-Nicknamed The Big Hurt in '92, yours is the best nickname…or anything else for that matter…to escape Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson's lips. Bravo! (Actually, we're playing to the haters here. I confess to loving the Hawk.)
-Dude, you are 6'5", 275 pounds, and play baseball. As Andy Behrens wrote in a standard-bearing WWL piece a couple years back, "Frank's galactically big." Awesome.
-You've played 18 seasons and have never been traded. Not once. Mike Piazza once got traded twice in a week. Yesterday a dude got bagged for ten bats. You are too big (in our hearts) to trade, Frank.
-You made your debut at County Stadium in Milwaukee. Do you realize what this means? It means Bob Friggin' Uecker called your first big league game, Frank! Uecker! We bow down.
-You've never pulled down more than $10 million in a season despite playing in the helium salary era. Either have we! You're an everyman!
-You were born in the same town as George Foster Peabody, namesake of the Peabody Award. South Park recently landed one. This can't be an accident. Even Towely salutes you. Speaking of which…
-Amazingly, your career OBP is .420.
-You pushed for drug testing in sports as far back as 1995!
-So you're wicked ironic. Cheers!
-You didn't even go to college to play baseball, but were recruited for football. You went to Auburn. Ring a bell? This is the path of Bo Jackson. Bo knows peers, and you're one. Salute!
-Your best years overlapped with MJ's, and in the same town. This leads us to one conclusion. He needed a model, didn't he? We're saying you made MJ. We don't feel this is a leap.
-You also share a hometown with Mack Strong and Reggie Abercrombie, by far two of the best-named pro athletes. And they named you Frank. You always were chill. Props.
-In Toronto they call you "The Tank." Somebody needs to create a Frank the Tank movie character and credit Canada! They are too clever.
-Your Baseball-Reference page is sponsored by Robert Zielinski, which is so awesome it can't be made up.
-You've walked almost 300 more times than you've struck out in your career! That's an old-timers—DiMaggio never struck out! Ever!—fever dream.
-You have 32 stolen bases, Frank! You!! How is this possible?
-Dude, you swing a rusted iron pipe (reportedly found during a renovation project in Old Comiskey Park) in the on-deck circle. How is that not stunningly cool?
-In the White Sox clubhouse, not only did you have a corner stall, you had two lockers. Looking at you in person, this seems totally reasonable, Frank. And you're well-proportioned. This says much.
-Did we mention you're only the 11th guy in history to win consecutive MVP awards, the last AL guy since Roger Maris? Yeah, you're a pimp.
-You were in Mr. Baseball with Tom Selleck. You both deserved Oscars and got screwed!
-Which doesn't mean we'll forget you showed up in a Married With Children episode, and killed. Killed! You acted next to Al Bundy, man. Bundy!
-When you hit your 500th home run, you said, "It means a lot to me because I did it the right way." Subtle, classy, but with a dagger. Nice!
-Oh, and by "right way" we mean you speaking out against steroids as far back as 1995. '95, Frank! Bud Selig didn't even know what a syringe looked like until 2003! Cheers!
-While we're on the topic, did you realize you were the only active player to voluntarily talk with George Mitchell, for his little dossier?
-Take it away again, ESPN: "But here's the thing: Frank's peak years actually had no precedent. Between 1991 and 1997, he became the only player ever to score 100 runs, drive in 100, hit 20 or more homers, draw 100 walks, and bat .300 for seven consecutive seasons. His lowest on-base percentage during those seasons was .426." Dude, you are rad.
-You had your own Nintendo game, putting you on par with Mario, and perhaps ahead of Luigi.
-You are the best major league player ever named Frank Thomas, and that's actually a killer compliment; your predecessor (Frank Joseph Thomas, your middle name is Edward, so you know) had nearly 300 home runs!
-When people started to wonder if you were almost done, at 32, you had 143 RBIs, and mashed 43 homers. You had 143, Frank! That's Juan Gonzalez-ish!
-You know how Albert Pujols is good, right? And, still young? When you were 30, your OPS was higher than his is now! You know that means you were better than Albert at the same stage in your respective careers? That's insane! Salute!
-You were cut from the 1988 U.S. baseball team, and it stung. But you came back mad, Frank. You hit .403 the next season!
-And even then, you stayed at Auburn and played all four years. Unreal, big guy! Cheers!
-You have incredible restraint, big fella. You always know when to stay put, and the only guy in the 500 homer club with fewer triples is Mark McGwire, and we don't recall him begging for drug testing in 1995, as you did.
-Sacrifice? You're Mother Teresa! You have 120 sac flies and counting!
-Kenny Williams dogged you and said you were "somebody else's problem" when you departed for Oakland. Well, we checked, and your college coach said, "He was fun to be around—always smiling, always bright-eyed." He even told that to Sports Illustrated. Kenny's crazy, Frank! You epitomize fun.
-You got screwed, Frank! In 1994, these were your numbers: 106 R, 141 H, 34 2B, 38 HR, 101 RBI, 109 BB, .353 AVG, .487 OBP, .729 SLG. … but that was after just 113 games, and 399 AB's! Everybody went on strike! It was one of the greatest seasons ever, and forgotten! But not by us, Big Hurt. Not by us.
-You share a name with the guy who animated the Fox and the Hound. We cry just thinking about that movie.
-Frank, as you go on, remember, you're not alone in your greatness. Jeff Bagwell shares the same birthday, and also turns 40 today. The Big Hurt and Baggs. Talk about a sitcom we'd watch.
So Happy Birthday, Big Frank. We're pouring one out, right now.
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