By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.
Frank Thomas (for those of you under 30, I'm not talking about the one who's been playing for the White Sox for the past 10 years) was easy to like. For one, he was easily the Mets' most productive hitter in 1962, and while his defense was below average, he gave it his best in left field, third base, or first (where he probably should have played more, but the Mets had plenty of guys who could ONLY play first, so Thomas did his thing mostly in left field). He was also a big, friendly guy who, just for fun, liked to catch anyone's hardest fastball in his bare hands. Fortunately, there was no incident of this practice damaging his career in any way. He was also, apparently, quite a cutup, the Roger McDowell of his day, as opposed to someone like Marv Throneberry, who was taciturn, but became a joke. Thomas had the bad luck to play with the Pirates until they finally got good in 1960, then was shuttled among several losing NL teams until winding up with the 1962 Mets. As awful as the first-year Mets were, imagine how much worse they could have been without Frank and his 34 HR's and 94 RBI's. And he was NOT part of the expansion draft, but a trade acquisition from the Braves.
After being a good soldier with the Mets for 2 1/2 seasons, he got what looked like the break of his life by being dealt to the pennant-bound Phillies in mid-1964 for Gary Kroll (see failed prospects) and Wayne Graham (great college coach, washout as major league player). Thomas did his best to help the Phillies coast to the pennant, and I rooted for him all the way, with the Mets, of course, nowhere in the race, but Gene Mauch's squad managed to blow what looked like an insurmountable lead and it was disappointment once again for big Frank.
To me, Frank Thomas was just the kind of guy you have to root for, and easily my favorite Met from the early years.