Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Big Hurt' Making White Sox Feel So Good

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Big Hurt' Making White Sox Feel So Good

Article excerpt

I wanted to know just how much The Big Hurt really hurts, so I went to Jim Abbott, who has the Memorial Day black-and-blue badge of honor on his left hip to prove it.

"I've always believed in the baseball adage that you respect everyone and fear no one," Abbott said at the mention of Frank Thomas. "But in Frank's case, I'd have to say he deserves all the respect he gets. He's like a football player out there. He's so strong and disciplined. I don't know of another player - unless it's maybe (Ken) Griffey - that if you take him off his team, that team is very different. That's how good he is."

On a night that Wilson Alvarez, the Chicago White Sox's wunderkind lefty from Venezuela, was putting his 15-game winning streak on the line against the Yankees' perpetual lefty, Jimmy Key, they were talking about the big hurt Frank Thomas has been putting on all pitchers, lefty or righty, since he arrived in the major leagues on the express train out of Auburn in 1990. Abbott, of course, was speaking from experience. But Ed Farmer, a pitcher who is now a White Sox broadcaster, has been watching Thomas for five years and says with absolute conviction there is no better hitter in the game today.

"I never saw Ted Williams," Farmer said, "but Frank Thomas has the best eye of any batter I've ever seen." Coincidentally, as Farmer talked, Thomas was drawing a walk in his first at-bat against Key in the first inning. It was his 52nd walk - 11 more than runner-up Mickey Tettleton of Tigers.

"The first time I saw him was in Starkville, Miss., in 1989 when he was playing for Auburn against Mississippi State. I was a cross-checker (scout) for the Orioles and I couldn't believe what I saw - the way this big guy took a pitch an inch inside and another one an inch outside. He had a homer, a double and a single that day, but it wasn't the performance that mattered. What impressed me was his incredible discipline and batting eye; how he was able to work the count in his favor. …

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