Frank Thomas

10 crazy Frank Thomas stats on White Sox Hall of Famer's birthday

10 crazy Frank Thomas stats on White Sox Hall of Famer's birthday

Frank Thomas turned 52 on Wednesday. The White Sox legend spent 16 of his 19 big league seasons on the South Side, putting together a Hall of Fame résumé leading to his induction into Cooperstown in 2014.

In honor of his birthday, here are ten crazy stats you may not know on "The Big Hurt."

10 crazy Frank Thomas stats on White Sox legend's birthday

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12 White Sox hitters who had big seasons in fewer than 80 games

12 White Sox hitters who had big seasons in fewer than 80 games

If baseball returns in 2020, it looks like it will be no more than an 80-game season.

It got me to thinking: What are the best White Sox offensive seasons of 80 or fewer games? I went back and looked through seasons from 1950 to 2019 to find a dozen of the best.

Most of them are either because the player was a midseason acquisition or suffered an injury, and while it’s not the same circumstances, it’s still fun to find who packed the most punch into a reduced number of games. One player made the list twice — and it should come as no surprise who it is. Here they are in chronological order:

Ferris Fain, 1954

282 plate appearances, .302/.399/.417, five home runs, 51 RBIs, 40 walks, 14 strikeouts in 65 games

Fain suffered strained ligaments and a bruise on his right knee in a play at the plate in Game 2 of a doubleheader on June 27, 1954. He ended up missing the rest of the season. But before that, Fain was productive. The two-time AL batting champ with the Philadelphia Athletics (1951 and 1952) dropped off a bit in 1953, hitting only .256 in his first season with the White Sox, but even then he could still get on base with the best of ‘em (.405 on-base percentage). In 1954, he added nearly 50 points to his batting average, but unfortunately the injury curtailed his campaign. In December, he was traded to Detroit.

Charlie Maxwell, 1962

242 plate appearances, .296/.394/.495, nine home runs, 43 RBIs, 34 walks, 32 strikeouts in 69 games

Known as the “Sunday Slugger,” Maxwell had an uncanny knack for homering on that day of the week. In fact, 40 of his 148 career long balls (27 percent) came on Sunday. When he was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Bob Farley in a June 25, 1962, trade, he seemed to hit every day of the week for the White Sox, though he still saved his best work for Sunday. Five of the nine home runs he hit after joining the White Sox that season were slugged on Sunday.

Dick Allen, 1973

288 plate appearances, .316/.394/.612, 16 home runs, 41 RBIs in 72 games

After winning the AL MVP in 1972, he played only 72 games the following season. That’s unfortunate, since he was on pace for an encore performance. Allen suffered a hairline fracture of the small bone below the left knee in a June 28 game in Oakland. He returned to the lineup on July 31 and made two more pinch-hit appearances, but he was still in pain and missed the rest of the season. Allen ended up holding at least a share of the White Sox home-run lead with 16 until Bill Melton hit his 17th on Aug. 28.

Ron Hassey, 1986

174 plate appearances, .353/.437/.500, three home runs, 20 RBIs, 22 walks, 11 strikeouts in 49 games

Hassey is the only catcher in MLB history to catch two perfect games: Len Barker's in 1981 and the one Dennis Martinez threw in 1991. The 1986 campaign was the midpoint between those two seasons, and the White Sox acquired him from the Yankees on July 30 with Carlos Martínez and a player to be named later (Bill Lindsay) for Ron Kittle, Joel Skinner and Wayne Tolleson. Hassey had the hottest stretch with the bat of his major league career with the White Sox to close out 1986. He even appeared in yet another no-hitter — this one thrown by Joe Cowley on Sept. 19. But he didn’t catch. He was DH that day.

Carlton Fisk, 1988

298 plate appearances, .277/.377/.542, 19 home runs, 50 RBIs in 76 games

Pudge’s 19 home runs in 76 games in 1988 are a White Sox record for a season of 80 or fewer games. Not bad for a 40-year-old catcher. Fisk suffered a fractured right hand after getting hit by a Jack Clark foul tip on May 10 and ended up missing two and a half months. The setback didn’t rob Fisk of his power; he hit 11 of his 19 home runs in 52 games after returning.

Ron Kittle, 1989

196 plate appearances, .302/.378/.556, 11 home runs, 37 RBIs in 51 games

Iván Calderon led the 1989 White Sox with 14 home runs — in 157 games. But it could have and should have been Kittle to lead the team. Returning to the White Sox for 1989 for the first time since being traded to the Yankees in 1986, Kittle was having a career-year. His 11 home runs through June 10 were tops on the White Sox, and his .302 batting average and .932 OPS were career-highs. Unfortunately his back acted up, and he ended up having season-ending surgery to remove a herniated disc.

RELATED: White Sox should still play Field of Dreams game — against Cubs

Frank Thomas, 1990

240 plate appearances, .330/.454./529, seven home runs, 31 RBIs in 60 games

Thomas was selected seventh overall in the 1989 MLB Draft, and just a year later he tore through Southern League pitching to the tune of a .323/.487/.581 slash line, with 18 home runs and 112 walks in only 109 games. The White Sox could hold him back no longer, and he was called up to the majors to make his big league debut on Aug. 2. Thomas showed an approach rarely seen by a player of such a young age and posted one of the greatest starts to a career in major league history. An improbable nugget for Frank’s first taste of major league action: He hit three triples before hitting his first home run.

Charles Johnson, 2000

158 plate appearances, .326/.411/.607, 10 home runs, 36 RBIs in 44 games

An All Star in 1997 and a four-time Gold Glove winner by 2000, Johnson was acquired by the White Sox with Harold Baines in a July 29 with the Orioles for Brook Fordyce and three minor leaguers. He hit so well down the stretch for the division-champion White Sox that you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Johnson stayed in Chicago for more than just a 44-game stint in 2000.

Jose Canseco, 2001

306 plate appearances, .258/.366/.477, 16 home runs, 49 RBIs in 76 games

The big 36-year-old slugger was released by the Angels in spring training after he went homerless in 49 at-bats. He wasn’t done yet, though. He had 446 career home runs entering the season and had his eyes on 500. Canseco went the independent route, signing with Newark of the Atlantic League, and was fairly decent. Luckily for him, the White Sox had a need at DH after Thomas suffered a torn triceps in May and the 42-year-old Baines was hitting just .133. They signed Canseco in June. He still had something left in the tank, connecting for 16 long balls. After that season, he never played in the majors again.

Carl Everett, 2003

289 plate appearances, .301/.377/.473, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs in 73 games

A player so nice, you trade for him twice (in a row). The White Sox acquired Everett on July 1, 2003, getting him from the Rangers for players to be named later (Frank Francisco, Josh Rupe and Anthony Webster). Everett signed with the Expos for the 2004 season, and the White Sox traded for him again in July of that season. Of course, he hung around for 2005 and helped the White Sox win a World Series.

Frank Thomas, 2004

311 plate appearances, .271/.434/.563, 18 home runs, 49 RBIs, 64 walks, 57 strikeouts in 74 games

By 2004, Thomas' batting average wasn’t what it had been, but he was still an elite performer. He could still post a .400 on-base percentage and slugging percentage north of .500, and he was coming off a 42-homer campaign in 2003. But the end of Thomas' White Sox career was plagued with injury. He played his final game of the 2004 season July 6 and missed the rest of the year with a stress fracture in his left foot. In 2005, he only got into 34 games and none in the playoffs. Never forget Thomas' reign of terror in the 1990s. You’ll likely never see another stretch that good in your lifetime.

Alejandro De Aza, 2011

171 plate appearances, .329/.400/.520, four home runs, 23 RBIs in 54 games

Álex Ríos was hitting .208/.255/.300 with six home runs in 97 games when he was benched in favor of the journeyman outfielder De Aza, who was called up from Triple-A Charlotte for the July 27 game against the Tigers. In his season debut, De Aza went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer off Max Scherzer as the White Sox went on to win, 2-1. He finished 2011 with a nice 54-game stretch, which led to a pair of seasons as an everyday outfielder for the White Sox. He was about league average, but that has value.

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Could Michael Jordan have made the major leagues had he stuck with baseball?

Could Michael Jordan have made the major leagues had he stuck with baseball?

“Now batting for the White Sox, right fielder, No. 45, Michael Jordan!”

Can you hear Gene Honda’s voice echoing across the South Side, creating the same kind of iconic introduction that Ray Clay made for Jordan when he was playing for the Bulls?

We never got to find out if the greatest basketball player of all time was good enough to make the major leagues as a baseball player. After one season in the minor leagues, Jordan announced “I’m back” and returned to the NBA to win three more championships with the Bulls.

But everyone who was there when Jordan made the switch to baseball in 1994 has nothing but complimentary things to say about his work ethic and his drive to become as good a baseball player as he was a basketball player.

“We had great conversations, but it wasn’t even that,” former White Sox outfielder and current broadcaster Darrin Jackson told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “It wasn’t standing out there talking to Michael about how to position (in the outfield) or do this. It was listening to him talk about how serious he was about playing the game of baseball and trying to be the best.

“I couldn’t believe the work he put in, the work ethic he had. He worked harder than anybody in camp. Of course, you’re probably going to have to if you haven’t played baseball in forever, but he wasn’t afraid to do it. He came out there with his hands ripped up from all the hitting. His feet were sore from all the running, the spikes. … It was impressive.”

Jordan was offered a direct path to the majors, former Oakland Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson recently revealed with Jordan once again the No. 1 discussion topic of the sports world thanks to ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary. But he turned it down, adamant about wanting to work his way through the minor leagues and earn a trip to the big leagues as more than just a gimmick to boost ticket sales.

But could he have done it?

RELATED: Michael Jordan didn't just ride the bus in the minor leagues — he drove it

Jordan’s talent on the basketball court wasn’t a question. He was the best in the world. But he hadn’t played competitive baseball for years. Would the athleticism that made him basketball’s GOAT translate to the diamond?

“I told him, ‘I’ve got a better chance of dunking and hitting 3s than you’ve got of hitting a good curveball,’” said White Sox legend Bill Melton, who worked with Jordan on a daily basis before he went to spring training in 1994. “That’s how we started our session right there.”

“I think the challenge was leg strength,” said White Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who was at spring training with Jordan. “Basketball, you can’t sit there and pump leg weights like we do to get your bottom half as strong as your top half, because hitting has a lot to do with your legs. Michael had very thin legs meant for and built for jumping, and you could see right away that his lower-leg strength wasn’t the same as the rest of the guys. That was it.”

Jordan might not have arrived at spring training built for baseball. But even in his short amount of time, he impressed the big leaguers he was playing with.

“Can he even put the ball in play?” Jackson wondered. “And I was impressed because in just our intrasquad games, he’s making contact. He had a chop swing, he beat down on the ball a little bit, which was fine. But he made contact with major league pitching, and I was actually flabbergasted.

“I was like, ‘I can’t believe he can even put the bat on the ball against these guys.’ It’s not that easy.”

Jackson also remembered that Jordan picked up some of the intricacies of outfield play pretty quickly, such as when to throw to which base and stuff like that. Jackson was most impressed by Jordan’s speed — “he could fly” — which was the attribute Jordan turned into his highest level of baseball success, stealing 30 bases playing minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons that season.

Given Jordan’s famous drive and competitive nature, it’s not difficult to envision him improving as a player if his career had gone on.

“He worked hard. He cared,” Thomas said. “And for a while after spring training, he kept on, and we were like, ‘Wait a minute, he’s serious about this.’ The key for him, he was getting better. Every day.”

RELATED: Michael Jordan's best baseball skill? 'He could fly' on the base paths

Of course, there were some things that even the great Michael Jordan couldn’t control. Like the fact that he wasn’t getting any younger. Jordan started his minor league career at 31 years old, with no baseball experience to speak of in the years prior. Most players spend years developing in the minors before reaching the big leagues, meaning Jordan conceivably could have improved like any other player — but he might have been a major league rookie at 34.

“I don’t think (he could have reached the majors) because of his age,” former White Sox shortstop and manager Ozzie Guillen said. “His age and his size, that’s why I think it would have been harder for him. It’s not easy to play your career in one sport and then to say, ‘I want to do this,’ that will happen.

“Plus the expectations would have been higher. So many things against him, I don’t think he would have made it. I think the tools were there, but I don’t think the time was there. He didn’t have enough time to make himself a better player.”

Thomas drew a comparison to a modern athlete trying to make the transition to baseball.

“I think he could have made it. I don’t know if he would’ve stayed,” he said. “I think his work ethic was second to none. But to sit out and not play baseball that long and try to catch up on the fly — you see it now with Tim Tebow, who’s making giant strides, who played a lot of baseball in high school — it takes time.”

And so maybe it wouldn’t have been a success story. Perhaps Jordan’s career would have petered out in the minor leagues, or maybe he would have reached the majors, only to fail to stick.

Of course, we’ll never know. But even those who knew what it took to play at baseball’s highest level saw something special in their counterpart from another sporting realm.

“At 31, it’s really hard. To be 31 and try to go out and do that, it was unheard of,” Thomas said. “But if anyone could do it, it was Michael Jordan.”

For more behind-the-scenes tales from Michael Jordan's baseball career, listen to this recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

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