"Hey, rookie. You were good."
--Joe Jackson (Field of Dreams)
In spring of 1991 I vacationed with friends in Sarasota, Florida. Yes, the sparkling crescent beach of Siesta Key was a major attraction. But it was also nice to have spring training baseball in town as the White Sox were stationed in Sarasota at the time.
I remember sitting down the third base line at Ed Smith Stadium on a sunny afternoon. It had rained earlier in the day and sea gulls bathed in grassy puddles behind the left field fence. There was also a hefty wind blowing in from left field.
In the bottom of the first, a big right handed batter stepped to the plate for the Sox. He unloaded on one, crushing a towering drive to left. I'm still amazed at how high and far that ball went--into the gale, no less. It landed well beyond the fence, scattering gulls as it plopped into the puddles.
No other hitter came close to the fence that day.
That was my first exposure to Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt went on to dominate the decade. He won back-to-back MVPs in 1993-94, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six other years from 1991 to 2000. When he retired, Thomas had amassed 521 career homeruns alongside a .301 batting average.
On Wednesday, The Big Hurt was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.