07/25/2003 9:53 PM ET
Frank Thomas belts 400th homer
Slugger 36th big leaguer to reach milestone
CHICAGO -- The crack of the bat with two outs in the fifth inning told Frank Thomas all he needed to know.
Connecting on an 0-1 slider from Tampa Bay’s Jorge Sosa, Thomas made history. His 400th career home run flew majestically toward left-center field and landed about four or five rows into the bleachers, setting off a fan scrum some 375 feet from home plate.
“It was a clean feel,” a relaxed and elated Thomas said after the game. “I knew I hit it great. I got the pitch I was looking for and swung with authority.”
The long home run, Thomas’ 24th of the season, added his name as the 36th among the 400-homer club and the eighth active player. Thomas followed Houston’s Jeff Bagwell, who reached the milestone last week.
But it was a special moment for a 13-year veteran in front of the home faithful, who have run the gamut from love to disdain with the talented power hitter. During the 2003 season, it has been nothing but love for Thomas.
“That was a nice reception for him, and I’m ecstatic he got it done,” said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel of Thomas’ historic blast. “To do it at home was very rewarding for him in his career.”
“I had the goal to do it at home,” Thomas added. “All of the guys were saying I should take care of it in Toronto, but I wanted to wait until I got home. The fans have been great.”
Thomas’ three children, Sterling, Sloan and Sydney, were part of the 22,617 in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field who gave Thomas a standing ovation as he crossed home plate. The ovation continued five minutes after Thomas’ teammates greeted him at the top step of the dugout, producing Thomas’ second curtain call of the season.
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Thomas just missed No. 400 in the first inning, flying out to Carl Crawford against the left-field wall. In fact, Thomas thought he hit that pitch better than the actual home run. He drew a huge ovation after the fly out, the same coming after he struck out in the third and walked in the seventh.
It was an especially important accomplishment, considering that Thomas hit .252 with 28 home runs last season after a torn right triceps ended his 2001 season prematurely, and was given up on as a top producer. By Thomas’ account, his 400 home runs have been accomplished in 12 seasons, as opposed to the 13 on the back of his baseball card.
But Thomas was most proud of the fact that he did it his way, taking a page from Frank Sinatra on ‘Rat Pack Night’ at U.S. Cellular Field. All 400 home runs were achieved through hard work in the cage and the weight room, not to mention with one team on the South Side of Chicago.
“It means a lot. It really does,” Thomas said of hitting all 400 with the White Sox. “Guys are changing teams left and right, and I’m proud to be here for all 400.
“I know what I’ve accomplished, doing it the right way with hard work. I’ve been blessed.”
In keeping with Thomas’ team-first demeanor, the veteran designated hitter spoke more of the team’s chances for the postseason than his home run. In return, his teammates pumped up Thomas’ accomplishment after picking up their eighth straight victory.
“You lie if you say Frank is not one of the greatest of all time in the game,” said left fielder Carlos Lee, a close friend of Thomas. “The things he has done...You don’t see anybody else doing it.
“He gets a lot of bad things at him, but he’s a great guy and has done a lot for the game,” Lee added.
When Thomas crossed home plate, he pointed skyward before pointing to his family in the stands. It was a tribute to his late father, Frank Sr.
As Thomas talked briefly about his father after the game, the power hitter became emotional. Then again, it was an emotional punctuation for a very exciting career for No. 35.
“My father is not here with me anymore, but he was the biggest influence on me in this game,” Thomas said. “His goal was always for me to hit 500. Now, I’m getting close.”
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
“Guys are changing teams left and right, and I’m proud to be here for all 400.
I know what I’ve accomplished, doing it the right way with hard work. I’ve been blessed.”
-- Frank Thomas