Big Hurt tributes lacking in his hometown
By Steve Metsch
They do know about Hall of Fame member Frank Thomas – on the short list of greatest White Sox players – in his hometown.
But good luck trying to find any reminder of The Big Hurt in Columbus, GA., a lovely city of about 190,000 residents.
My wife and I were there last week to watch our daughter and her University of Illinois teammates play in the National Club Softball Association World Series, held May 20-23.
My son and I had visited in 2019 when the Illini played in the World Series. Back then, we didn’t know it was the big fella’s hometown.
After we got home, we learned it was. I decided that if we ever returned, I’d look for a statue, a plaque, a ball field, anything that was honoring the HOF member.
Earlier this month, before we headed down to Columbus, I called the city hall, leaving two messages asking what they had for Frank Thomas.
They never called back.
So, I called Columbus High School. Surely, the place where he honed his skills in baseball and football – don’t forget, he was a tight end for Auburn – would have something named for Frank Thomas.
A secretary put me in touch with the athletics department.
Driving into town on May 19, we stopped at the tourism center. A young lady knew about Frank, but did not know if there was anything honoring him. She asked me to give her my phone number, promised her boss would call.
I’m still waiting.
Being a longtime reporter, I decided to do some investigating. After Illinois won two games on May 21, my wife and I – driving back to the Hyatt Place hotel – decided to visit the high school. It’s a lovely place, up on hill. We didn’t get inside as it was too late in the day, so we drove around the school.
We saw nothing near the entrance that mentioned The Big Hurt. No “This is where Frank Thomas went to high school” plaque near the front door.
Nothing on the monument sign out front, either.
We hit the baseball field. It looks nice. Once again, nothing for the big fella. The logo for Columbus High School, by the way, resembles the Cubs’ “C” logo. My wife and I got a good laugh from that.
The Columbus baseball team plays at Randy Jordan Field. Who is Randy Jordan? Turns out he was a huge supporter of the high school since the 1970s. He attended many a baseball game, even those played on the road. Mr. Jordan died in 2013. The field was named for him in 1999. That is terrific. Heartwarming. Let’s not take that away from the late Mr. Jordan.
However, I do think that something should be done for Frank Thomas in his hometown.
There could be something somewhere. Maybe a Little League field is named Big Hurt Ballpark. Perhaps the brick wall where he played fast pitch, working on that sweet swing, has a plaque. Or a Waffle House has a sign saying “Frank Thomas ate a dozen pancakes here after a big game”?
But to the best of my knowledge, Columbus has absolutely nothing named for Frank Thomas.
Think about it.
He batted .301 and hit 521 home runs over 19 seasons. He is a two-time MVP – one steroid filled Jason Giambi away from a third – played in five All-Star Games, won four Silver Slugger Awards, was the American League batting champ in 1997. That’s why he’s in in the Hall of Fame.
It’s up to you, Columbus. The Illini plan to return to your fine city for the 2022 World Series. Here’s hoping we see something – anything – that honors Frank Thomas, the guy who went from Columbus to 16 fantastic years in Chicago to Cooperstown.