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Get to know an Immaculate Grid guy: Frank Thomas

A member of the ‘62 Mets, Thomas played for a bunch of teams during his major league career.

Frank Thomas holds a bat during batting practice in a black and white photo.
Frank Thomas
Photo by Donald Uhrbrock/Getty Images

If you’re anything like those of us who write here at Amazin’ Avenue, you’ve probably been playing Immaculate Grid, a Wordle-inspired game that was purchased by Baseball-Reference and tests your baseball trivia knowledge. And with the 2023 Mets having made themselves irrelevant to the race for a playoff spot, we thought it would be fun to check in on some Mets who would be particularly useful for the squares that are frequently seen in the game.

Now, if you’d prefer to go in completely fresh, you’re not obligated to read any more of this piece. The headline won’t give much away in this series, aside from the fact that a player didn’t spend his entire career with the Mets. David Wright and Ed Kranepool might still be good answers in the game, but with the majority of the squares asking for players who played for two different teams, they might not be correct answers all that frequently.

With that, let’s get to know a particularly good candidate: the late original Met Frank Thomas. Born in 1929, Thomas made his major league debut with the Pirates in his age-22 season with the Pirates, and he spent the entirety of his twenties playing for Pittsburgh, and he hit a solid .275/.333/.474 with 163 home runs and a 113 OPS+. But for a player who spent that long with his first team, he wound up playing for a lot of teams over the course of the rest of his career.

The Pirates traded Thomas to the Reds ahead of the 1959 season, and after he hit just .225/.278/.380 with 12 home runs and a 71 OPS+ for them that year, Cincinnati dealt him to the Cubs. Thomas didn’t fare much better there in 1960, as he hit .238/.280/.399, albeit with 21 home runs. He started the 1961 season in Chicago, but in early May, the Cubs sent him to the Milwaukee Braves.

After a couple seasons of struggles, Thomas turned things around significantly in Milwaukee, putting up a .284/.335/.506 line with 25 home runs—good for a total of 27 when added to the two he hit for the Cubs before the trade. For Immaculate Grid purposes, remember that players still count for franchises that moved before or after their time playing for them. That’s slightly easier to remember in this case since the Braves maintained their name throughout their two moves in the modern era.

Following that very good performance, Milwaukee traded Thomas to the Mets ahead of their inaugural season. And as bad as that team was, Thomas couldn’t be blamed for its struggles. He hit nearly as many home runs—34—as the number of games the Mets won in their first campaign, and his .266/.329/.496 line equated to a 118 OPS+. He stuck around for the 1963 season, too, but hit just 15 home runs, and after struggling to start the 1964 season, he was traded by the Mets to the Phillies.

Thomas once again saw his production rejuvenated by a trade, hitting very well for the Phillies the rest of the way in ‘64. After a slow start in 1965, however, Thomas was purchased from the Phillies by the Astros, and later that year, Houston traded him back to the Milwaukee Braves. A week before the Braves’ first season in Atlanta in 1966, the organization released Thomas. He signed with the Cubs ahead of that season but wound up making just five plate appearances for them.

In total, Thomas hit .266/.320/.454 over the course of his career with 286 home runs and a 107 OPS+. He made three All-Star teams, all during his time with the Pirates, and garnered some down-ballot MVP votes on several occasions. His stats likely won’t make him a good category answer in Immaculate Grid, but any player who spent time with seven different organizations could come in handy—especially if you’re going for a good rarity score. In this particular case, though, make sure you choose the correct Frank Thomas.