Why Frank Thomas Deserves Redemption from the Fans of Chicago
Reports have finally come out that Sammy Sosa tested positive for steroids in 2003. The confirmation only proves what I have known for so long, which is that there was no way Sosa could have gained a bunch of muscle in the off season between the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He probably kept up his steroid usage throughout the early part of this decade.
That said, general Chicago baseball fans who flocked to see Sosa like he was a god (remember those two guys who ran onto the field at Wrigley to bow before Sosa in the spring of '99?), need to apologize to the man who slugged homers cleanly during the same era. That man is Frank Thomas.
Although I am a Sox fan, I must confess to being awed by Sosa myself, when he was hitting homers like there was no tomorrow, and I feel ashamed for it. Then again, I may have been engulfed by all the media hype surrounding him, both local and national.
When I first started following baseball midway through the 1996 season, Frank Thomas was the best-known hitter in town. The Cubs had Sosa, but he was nowhere near the slugger Thomas was. As a new Sox fan, I was happy to know Thomas was the one people knew and respected more, not to mention he had one or two video games.
However, like most baseball fans, I was awed with the home run chase. I thought it was the greatest thing the game had ever seen. Then again, it was at a time when I had a rooting interest in both Chicago teams. Now, I can't even look at my books or watch my videos about them, without cringing.
Sosa quickly replaced Thomas as the face of Chicago baseball, something I could never quite figure out. Wasn't there enough room in town for two sluggers who just so happened to play on opposite sides of town? Apparently, the answer was no, so Thomas slipped into the background for everybody but Sox' fans.
The most ignorant Cubs' fans will claim that Thomas was also on steroids, thinking the two players' careers somehow parallel each other just because they played on opposite ends of Chicago. However, Thomas had the body of a football player from the beginning of his big-league career. In his younger days, he accepted a scholarship to play football at Auburn. Further more, he has been one of the most outspoken critics of steroids in baseball since the issue arose.
Sadly, while Thomas had his time in the sun for most of the '90s, hitters such as him, Jim Thome, and Jeff Bagwell lost the spotlight to mashers who were hitting fifty plus homers every year. He even lost a third MVP award in 2000 to a 'roided-up Jason Giambi. Though he's likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame anyway, it would have been nice to add one more MVP award to his resume.
There's no more reason for local fans and media members to defend Sosa. After years of speculation, the truth has finally come out about him. I could go on about why the positive steroid test was kept from the public for so long, but that's another question.
One thing that can finally be confirmed is that Frank Thomas was the only clean slugger of the two who dominated Chicago baseball in the 1990s and first half of the current decade.
Most people instead chose to worship a fraud, a liar, and a headcase.
For that, they owe the real Chicago baseball hero of his era an apology for the lack of respect he got in the later half of his playing days on the south side.
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