Friday, June 4, 2010

'56 of the month: Frank Thomas

In April, I said I would feature one 1956 Topps card a month from my collection in hopes that by the time I finished the series, I would have the whole set.

Well, I featured the first one of Vic Power and got into his very interesting story. Then May came and went, and I completely forgot to show a '56 card.

One card into the series and I've failed already.

But, looking at it positively, if I take little "unintended" breaks in the series, that will give me more time to hunt down the '56s I need. I still need more than half the set and a ton of the stars.

So, I knew there was a reason I skipped May. It was a stalling tactic.

Anyway, to get back on track, I am featuring Frank Thomas this time.

I know what some of you are thinking: You know Frank Thomas. Frank Thomas is a friend of yours. This is no Frank Thomas.

True, this Frank Thomas is not the Frank Thomas that you know from the 1990s "Big Hurt" days.

But did you know they were related?

Ha! Made you look!

I'm joking. They're not related. But they do have a couple of things in common. Both were sluggers in their era. Both were considered big men for their time. The 1956 Frank Thomas is listed as 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. He was nicknamed the "Big Donkey." The Big Hurt, of course, was an imposing 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds.

The '56 Thomas enjoyed several awesome seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the '50s. The Pirates were noted for being horrible back then (yeah, I know, so what has changed?). But that didn't affect Thomas' hitting ability. He was an all-star three times and received MVP votes five separate years, including a fourth-place showing in 1958. He hit 30 homers three times, drove in a 100 twice.

As you can see, Thomas will be celebrating his 81st birthday in a few days!

One of my favorite parts of the card is on the front, in which the illustration shows Thomas sliding underneath a Brooklyn Dodger (perhaps Jim Gilliam?). Thomas is wearing red sleeves and socks, which is quite odd for the Pirates (I checked the uniform database for that period. No red).

But despite all of that greatness for the Pirates, I have a feeling that even fewer people would remember Thomas if not for two things:

1. This is the most important: he was an original member of the New York Mets, hitting 34 home runs for them in 1962. Playing for New York is the best PR move that any player could make.

2. Thomas hit the fourth of four consecutive home runs hit by the Milwaukee Braves in 1961. That was the first time that had ever happened (the Dodgers tied that record, memorably in the ninth inning, against the Padres a few years ago).

A couple of other things of note is that Thomas was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, a place that holds many memories for me. Thomas also studied for the priesthood for five years before his major league career began.

But the most interesting thing that I found is Frank Thomas has a website, that also includes a blog. And Thomas is a baseball card collector!! He collects Topps and Topps Heritage, and he's got want lists and everything! His favorite Topps set is the 1958 set.

Thomas posts to his blog about once a month although there are some significant gaps there. He apparently dictates what he wants to say to a friend who operates the site.

My favorite part is he finishes off some of his posts with:

Frank Thomas
"The Original One"

"The Original One" is also in his blog address.

He's also got a place where you can submit autograph requests. If I had more time, I'd take a more complete tour and let you know what else is on the site. But you can click a link as easily as I can.

So, I'm glad Mr. Thomas has gotten me back on the '56 of the Month wagon. Hopefully there will be another '56 showing in July. If not, you know that I'm stalling. A lot of the '56 cards that I need ain't cheap you know.


  1. Interesting about the website. I wonder how many other players do a site.

  2. I think I read something in the old Baseball Hobby News years ago about Frank having his collection stolen or destroyed or something like that.

  3. You're right, Matt. It says on his website that he lost it in a fire.

  4. About the red in the jersey, I could believe it. It seems the Pirate wore vests around that time so the red is probably the red shirt he's wearing underneath his vest top.

    Someone should ask him about Red in the mid 1950's and see if he can say if a red shirt underneath the vest was common for the team or just something he did individually.

  5. Now I want to trade cards with the Original Frank Thomas but I have no 1952 Topps High Numbers. Someone convince Frank to start collecting Bowman from 2001-2007, I got tons of that I want to get rid of.