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April 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm ET
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Hurt Me: B&C’s exclusive interview with Frank Thomas

He possessed one of baseball’s most lethal bats for nearly two decades, with an eye and discipline at the plate challenged by few, and a glare rivaled by none.

The Big Hurt was a five-time All-Star, took down back-to-back American League MVP awards in 1993 and ’94, is a member of the 500 home run club, and is a veritable lock for the Hall of Fame two years from now.

This afternoon, Thomas took a few minutes to speak about why batting coaches weren’t always great hitters, Ozzie’s latest comments that got him into hot water, what Albert Belle was really like, Big Hurt Beer, Pepsi Max’s Field of Dreams and how Hurt really felt about the Twins fans he crushed year after year.

To you, the loyal and learned B&C reader, we are proud to present Frank Edward Thomas:

Hey Frank, how’s it goin’?

Great, how are you?

Not too bad. Thanks for talking with us, we appreciate it.

Not a problem.

If you weren’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2014 , would you be more disappointed or angry?


Your name and performance-enhancing drugs rarely, if ever, appeared in the same sentence, but how do you feel about those who have been linked to steroids, such as fellow Chicago slugger Sammy Sosa or the recently retired Ivan Rodriguez? Do you believe they have a place in the Hall?

Well, that’s never up to me, that’s going to be up to the voters. There are plenty of guys out there who have been pointed out, who have been caught, so the writers, they’re going to think one way or the other, so I’m going to leave that to the writers.

You had offered your services as hitting coach for the White Sox last fall, but the job went to Jeff Manto, a career .230 hitter. Of course, hitting is as much about timing and mechanics as it is about talent, but why does it seem that so many hitting coaches were not strong major league hitters, while someone with a batting resume built for Cooperstown such as yourself inquires about the job, but gets turned down?

For me, offering my services was more of a personal thing with Robin Ventura, it had nothing to do with me wanting to be the hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox, it was more one of my best friends ever became the manager. As for great hitters not getting those jobs, I have no idea (chuckles), you know, great hitters have more to offer, I feel, than the ones who never hit at that level. That more has to do with the business side of things, I think, than having superstar players around as hitting coaches.

If another club approached you to be batting coach, is that an offer you would entertain?

Not now, no. Not at all.

You alluded to your personal relationship with current White Sox skipper and former teammate Robin Ventura, the two of you did some damage on the South Side for years (1990-98), and for a shorter period (1997-98), so too did you and Albert Belle. For as much as the media appeared to dislike Belle, what was he like in the clubhouse and in the dugout as a teammate?

Albert was a different bird, but everybody knew that. He beat his own drum, but he was more intense than ever to win every day, and a lot of people didn’t know that. People just misunderstood the man, because he cared more about winning and succeeding every day than anything else, and that included talking with people in the media all the time.

Did you get along with him, or did you just have a professional relationship?

No, we got along very well.

What were your thoughts when former teammate and manager Ozzie Guillen incensed south Florida with his pro-Fidel Castro comments?

I haven’t spoken with him since then, but me knowing Ozzie, he was probably just taking the conversation somewhere where it was more for giggles (chuckles), and not anything serious. He had no idea this would happen to him, and no one else did. I’m sure Ozzie was just trying to make a joke and the joke went in the wrong direction.

Is it even remotely possible to put into words how you feel knowing that you have your #35 and a statue standing at U.S. Cellular Field Comiskey Park?

It’s an incredible feeling. It’s one of those things where, you see most guys are dead and gone before they accomplish something like that, so I’m very blessed and honored, and it’s a wonderful feeling for my family knowing that will be there for the rest of my life and, hopefully, for centuries to come.

You’ve always been something of a business man, haven’t you? With a video game and record label, among other things. Have you always had entrepreneurial aspirations, and what endeavors are you involved with now?

No doubt! For me, I’ve always been one of those type of renaissance guys who’s likely to start something like that every year. I’m a worker, you know (laughing), I don’t like to sit around and not do anything, so as long as I’m active, I’ll be doing something.

Do you have any business dealings right now?

I have my own beer company right now.

And how is Big Hurt Beer going?

Going great, Big Hurt Beer.

Will that be going national anytime soon, or is still in select locations?

We’re in select states at this point.

How did you get involved with Pepsi Max Field of Dreams?

I’m excited to be a part of this Pepsi Max Field of Dreams, taking place Saturday, May 12 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. We’re going to be playing against a local resident, Tim Wisecup and 1o of his friends, and they’ll be taking the field against me and other legends like Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Eckersley and many more. Readers can check www.mlb.com/pepsimax for details.

How do you feel about that, getting the phone call that you’ve been selected to play on the same field with these legends?

It’s surreal, really. Growing up I watched Johnny Bench and Reggie Jackson (laughing), so when I think about being with that group of guys, it’s an honor.

On the humorous side, as a native Minnesotan who had moved to Ontario while you were with the Blue Jays, do you know how long it took for me, as a Twins fans, to come to terms with not cringing in fear? Then you go and blast home run #500 under the Teflon Confines? What do you have to say for all the pain and suffering you’ve caused in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

No, one of my favorite towns to ever play in.

Oh, I’m sure it was! (laughing)

Honestly, the fans are great, very social people, very nice people. They were some of the best, respectful fans I ever played in front of, so I have a lot of cool feelings for the people of Minnesota.

Frank, we appreciate you taking a few minutes to talk with us.

Alright, thank you very much for having me.

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