Frank Thomas hit 521 home runs and batted .301 in a 19-year career spent mostly with the Chicago White Sox. He won two MVP awards. (Brian Kersey / Associated Press)
There’s no way to sugarcoat the ending to Frank Thomas’ career with the White Sox.
Shortly after celebrating with the team during the 2005 victory parade, the organization told Thomas “goodbye and good riddance” after he had helped pull the club out of the gutter from the depths of the late 1980s in the wake of the threatened move to St. Petersburg, Fla.
When Thomas was allowed to leave as a free agent after the injury-plagued ending to his Sox career, he voiced displeasure with how it was handled. That ignited a war or words with general manager Ken Williams, seemingly ending any chance of reconciliation.
Williams called Thomas “selfish” and an “idiot,” adding; “We don’t miss his attitude, we don’t miss the whining. We don’t miss it. Good riddance. See you later.”
Ozzie Guillen can relate, having gone through a similar feud with Williams when he left as manager in 2011.
“There were a lot of bad endings in Chicago,” Guillen said with a laugh. “I don’t know why.
“It was sad and very difficult to deal with, because the two sides didn’t want it to end like that. Kenny didn’t want it to end like that, and Frank didn’t.
“But it did. I’m just glad Frank is back with the White Sox, and going to the Hall of Fame in a White Sox uniform. I was proud to have been in the same clubhouse and to have played with him for 10 years or so.”
Thomas and the organization made peace after his retirement, and the Sox had a Frank Thomas Day at U.S. Cellular Field in 2010, put up a statue of him and will fete him this weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., during festivities surrounding his Hall of Fame induction.
Thomas concedes the breakup was difficult but doesn’t feel he said anything to provoke the harsh comments. He pointed to the successful teams he played on in the 1990s, 2000 and ‘05 and said some in management took his contributions to the team’s success for granted.
“It’s about individuals sometimes,” he said of the bitter ending. “There are people there who realize what transpired over the 16 years I was there.
“Most people don’t love you until you’re gone. The effects of what I did for a 16-year period ... it seemed easy (to management) for a while. Ballparks were packed every day, (we were) giving them great play every day. They got to see a piece of history.
“Hopefully they’ve stepped back now and realized that it wasn’t as easy as we made it look in that period. The ballplayers sold out the place. People attach themselves to ballplayers, and I’ve been blessed to have a lot of people attached to me in my career.”
Sox veteran Paul Konerko was there for the end of Thomas’ career, which stands in stark contrast to the happy finish to his own stellar stay. Konerko believes the bad memories will fade now that Thomas and the Sox have buried the hatchet.
“It’s hard for everything to end just right every time for every player,” Konerko said. “People are human beings, and things happen. ... But what he did here always will trump (the ending). That always will make people come back together.
“(Neither) side would want a standoff. What he did here was too good of a thing for that to exist. It’s on the high road now and it’s probably going to stay there.”
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11 a.m.: Awards Ceremony (Ford C. Frick Award —Eric Nadel, Rangers broadcaster. J.G. Taylor Spink Award — Roger Angell, New Yorker)
1:30 p.m.: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Class of 2014
Votes: 97.20 percent
Teams: Cubs, Braves, Dodgers, Padres
Notable: Four consecutive Cy Youngs, eight All-Star selections, 18 Gold Gloves, one World Series title (Braves, 1995)
Votes: 91.90 percent
Teams: Braves, Mets
Notable: Two Cy Youngs, 10 All-Star selections, four Silver Sluggers, World Series MVP, one World Series title (Braves, 1995)
Position: First base, designated hitter
Votes: 83.70 percent
Teams: White Sox, A’s, Blue Jays
Notable: Five All-Star selections, back-to-back AL MVPs, four Silver Sluggers, one World Series title (White Sox, 2005)
Teams: Blue Jays, Braves
Notable: Four-time manager of the year, five NL pennants, one World Series title (Braves, 1995)
Teams: White Sox, A’s, Cardinals
Notable: Four-time manager of the year, three AL pennants, three NL pennants, three World Series titles (A’s, 1989; Cardinals, 2006 and 2011)
Teams: Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers
Notable: Two-time manager of the year, six AL pennants, four World Series titles (Yankees, 1996, 1998-2000)