Card of the Day: 1955 Bowman Frank Thomas

When most baseball fans see the name Frank Thomas, they think of the Hall of Fame 1B/DH for the Chicago White Sox. Before the Big Hurt came on the scene, the Pittsburgh Pirates had their own Frank Thomas hitting home runs. The original Frank Thomas slugged 163 homers with the Pirates from 1951 until 1958, including 23+ a year during his last six seasons in Pittsburgh. Today’s Card of the Day features the man who was second only to Ralph Kiner on the Pirates all-time home run list when he left Pittsburgh.

The 1955 Bowman set featured one of my favorite old designs. The players were shown inside a television set, with a wood grain border and the words “color TV” at the bottom. We are talking about 1955 here, and with these cards being produced months before the Major League season started, color TV broadcasts were barely a year old when this set was first released.

Here’s the front of the card:

Thomas is leaning over, hands on his knees and what appears to be a glove on his left hand. He has an intense look on his face, which was probably a bit intimidating to pitchers, back when he was coming off of his first All-Star appearance in 1954, hitting .298 with 23 homers.

Here’s the back of the card:

One of my favorite things here is seeing the story on the back of this card, as Thomas talks about his biggest thrill in baseball. He talks about hitting a grand slam with his parents in the crowd to win a game 6-5. The home run happened April 23, 1953 and was a little bit different than the story makes it sound.

When I initially read that, it appears to suggest that he hit a walk-off grand slam. The home run actually came in the third inning that day and it gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead at the time. A grand slam is big in a one-run win regardless, especially for a 23-year-old with his parents in the crowd, but it played out quite different than that story. What makes it a bit more interesting is that seven days later, he hit a walk-off homer in the ninth against the Chicago Cubs for a 4-2 win. It was his second home run of the season and was probably quite the thrill.

As you can see from the card, Thomas was born on June 11, 1929 in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s still living and about to celebrate his 91st birthday at the time of this writing. That makes him the tenth oldest living former Pittsburgh Pirates player. Hank Foiles, who was a teammate of Thomas during the 1956-58 seasons, is one day older.

This card can be had on Ebay for less than $10 delivered in nice condition. You can get it for as low as $5 if condition doesn’t matter. If you want one of the nicest condition ones in existence, there’s a PSA 9 (10 means the card is flawless) for $338 on Ebay right now. That’s $279 more than a PSA 8, which looks almost as nice.

Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:

1913 T200 Fatima team card

2020 Topps Living Set Josh Bell

2020 Roberto Clemente Topps Throwback

1982 Topps Tim Foli

1887 N172 Old Judge Art Whitney and Dog

1973 Topps Willie Stargell

1981 Topps Pirates Future Stars

1936 R312 Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan

1959 Topps Buc Hill Aces

1982 Donruss Harvey Haddix

1991 Upper Deck Jose Lind

1982 Topps Traded Pirates set

1974 Topps Bob Johnson

1909 E90 Dots Miller

2005 Bowman Heritage Andrew McCutchen

1961 Topps Gino Cimoli World Series Highlights

1969 Topps Richie Hebner/Al Oliver

1920 W516 Wilbur Cooper

1887 N172 Sam Barkley (guest submission)

1976 Topps Pie Traynor

2020 Topps 206 Roberto Clemente

1957 Topps Bill Mazeroski

1998 Topps Jose Guillen (guest submission)

1948 Bowman Ralph Kiner

1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds/Johnny Ray Error

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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