Pittsburgh Pirates great Frank Thomas has passed away at 93 years old according to the Pirates. Here’s his bio from our site.
Frank Thomas, outfielder for the 1951-58 Pirates. The Pirates signed the Pittsburgh, PA. native as an amateur in 1947, with his first pro action coming for Tallahassee of the Class-D Georgia-Florida League in 1948, where he hit .295 with 39 doubles, eight triples and 14 homers in 138 games. He repeated the level in 1949, while also spending part of the season two levels higher in Class-B ball, playing briefly for Waco of the Big State League and Davenport of the Three-I League. He combined to hit .319 in 107 games, with 70 runs, 24 doubles, 14 homers, 87 RBIs and an .868 OPS. In 1950, he began to make his move towards the majors, splitting the year between two levels, hitting .294 with 45 extra-base hits in 129 games. He played 82 games that year for Charleston of the Class-A South Atlantic League and 47 games with New Orleans of the Double-A Southern Association. Thomas began the 1951 season at New Orleans, where he hit .289 with 25 doubles, six triples and 23 homers in 125 games, earning his first promotion to the Pirates in mid-August. In 39 games for Pittsburgh that year, he hit .264 with 16 RBIs, 21 runs scored and a .698 OPS. While the 1952 Pirates struggled to score runs and win games (they went 42-112), Thomas toiled in the minors, batting .303 with 35 homers and 40 doubles in 154 games for New Orleans. He was a September call-up that year and would stick in the majors for good from that point on, despite going 2-for-21 with two singles and one walk in six games.
The first full season in Pittsburgh was an impressive one for Thomas, as he took over the slugger role from the recently traded Ralph Kiner. Thomas connected on 22 doubles and 30 homers in 128 games. He batted .255 that season, with 68 runs, 102 RBIs and 50 walks, leading him to an .837 OPS and an 18th place finish in the MVP voting. The 1954 season saw him play 153 games, hitting .298 with 32 doubles, seven triples, 23 homers, 94 RBIs and 81 runs scored. His .856 OPS was the second best mark of his career. He was selected to his first All-Star team that year, one of three times he went to the mid-season classic while with Pittsburgh. He also finished 13th in the MVP voting. His impressive 1954 season was followed up by a down year in 1955. He made the All-Star team again, but his .245 average and 72 RBIs were his low marks during his six full seasons with the team. He had 25 homers and 60 walks, but his OPS dropped 101 points from the previous season. Despite the overall drop, he still got some MVP support, finished 23rd in the voting.
Thomas began to go through position switches while with Pittsburgh, spending most of his time at third base in 1956, then playing all four corner positions in 1957, with most of his time coming at first base. In 1958, he was back at third base. Even after he left Pittsburgh, he would switch from first base to left field to third base as he moved from team to team. Thomas led the National League with 157 games played in 1956, hitting for a .282 average, with 69 runs, 24 doubles, 25 homers, 80 RBIs and a .787 OPS. He improved to a .290 average in 151 games in 1957, with 72 runs, 30 doubles, 23 homers, 89 RBIs and a .795 OPS. That earned him mild MVP support for a fourth time, finishing 19th in the voting. He followed that up with his best year (though his 1954 season had a slightly higher WAR). Thomas made his third All-Star team in 1958, and set career highs with 89 runs scored, 35 homers and 109 RBIs. He hit .281 that year, and added 26 doubles, giving him an .863 OPS that was his career high. He finished fourth in the NL MVP voting that year, his best finish, though it was also the last time he received any MVP votes.
On January 30, 1959, the Pirates traded Thomas to the Cincinnati Reds in a seven-player deal that brought Don Hoak, Harvey Haddix and Smoky Burgess back to Pittsburgh. He struggled with the Reds after the trade, batting .225 in 108 games, with 41 runs, 18 doubles, 12 homers, 47 RBIs and a .658 OPS (205 point drop from 1958). He would be dealt to the Chicago Cubs after just one season. He bounced back a bit in the power category in 1960, but his average didn’t return. Thomas hit .238 in 135 games that season, with 54 runs, 12 doubles, 21 homers, 64 RBIs and a .678 OPS. He was with the Cubs briefly in 1961 before being traded to the Milwaukee Braves. He hit .281 in 139 games, with 65 runs, 15 doubles, 27 homers and 73 RBIs, then got traded to the expansion New York Mets in the off-season. Thomas was a big piece on a very bad team. The club went 40-120, despite him hitting .266 that year, with 69 runs, 23 doubles, 34 homers, 94 RBIs and an .824 OPS in 156 games. The average stayed nearly the same in 1963, but the power disappeared. Thomas hit .260 in 126 games, with 34 runs, nine doubles, 15 homers and 60 RBIs, seeing a 115-point drop in his OPS.
Thomas split the 1964 season between the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, hitting .271 with 17 doubles, ten homers and 45 RBIs in 99 games, showing much better results after the trade. He became a bench player in 1965 and ended up playing for three different teams, starting with the Phillies, before moving on to the Houston Astros and then finishing back with the Braves. He batted just .220 with four homers and a .599 OPS in 73 games. He returned to the Cubs in 1966 at 37 years old, but he was let go after going 0-for-5 as a pinch-hitter, which ended his big league career. Thomas was a .266 career hitter over 1,766 Major League games. He belted 262 doubles and 286 career homers and drove in 962 runs, while scoring 792 runs. While with the Pirates, he hit .275 with 163 homers and 562 RBIs in 925 games. His home run total ranks eighth in franchise history. He had below average defense throughout his career, which left him with 18.7 career WAR, of which 13.8 came while with the Pirates.