CHICAGO (AP)—Frank Thomas felt right at home. He should have. After 16 years in Chicago, he was back among familiar faces in a stadium where he was a great hitter for a long time.
Thomas hit two solo homers for Oakland in his return to U.S. Cellular Field, but it wasn’t enough for a victory Monday night. His old team, the Chicago White Sox, got a game-winning bunt single from Pablo Ozuna in the 10th inning for a 5-4 win over the Athletics.
“Bittersweet,” Thomas said after a game that featured a video tribute of his White Sox career, a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 39,354 and a 3-for-5 performance.
“I’ve been looking for this for a long time to come back here and show everybody I’m not dead,” the two-time MVP added. “It’s been a rough six months for me. Everyone thought I was done. I’ve had a slow start, but I know what I’m capable of doing in a short period of time.”
Ozuna then pushed a bunt up the first base line, and by the time first baseman Nick Swisher picked up the ball and made an off-target throw, the leadoff hitter had already beaten it out to send Pierzynski home.
“I was going to try to lay one down and beat the throw out and win the game with a bunt because I am a better bunter than I am a hitter,” Ozuna said.
Swisher said there was nothing he could do.
“It was just a perfect bunt. I mean, it was absolutely perfect,” he said.
Bobby Jenks (2-1) pitched two innings for the win.
Wearing Oakland’s green and yellow in a familiar park where he always loved to hit, Thomas also struck out and in his final at-bat fouled out to the catcher with runners at second and third in the 10th. Jenks then fanned Bobby Crosby to get out of the inning.
Thomas had to keep his emotions in check during the tribute on the large scoreboard.
“It was hard to look at all that stuff,” he said. “I know how dedicated I was to this organization. It just felt weird being on another team coming back here. In my heart and my soul I thought I would retire with the Chicago White Sox and it didn’t happen. But I’m not done and will continue to play the game as long as possible.”
Thomas was upset when team owner Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t contact him after he was not brought back following 16 seasons with the White Sox. And after he expressed his disappointment again in a spring training interview, White Sox general manager Ken Williams called him an “idiot.”
Williams and Thomas aired out their differences in a phone call this spring and even if they have not patched up their relationship, Thomas said it felt good to be home.
“There’s definitely no bitterness in my heart,” he said.
Thomas had 12 homers in limited time a year ago because of an ankle injury but was still part of the White Sox team that won the World Series for the first time since 1917. He made a speech at the victory parade.
After getting a standing ovation and waving his helmet to the crowd as he stood at the plate, Thomas, who entered the game batting .178, drove a 3-1 pitch from Jon Garland over the left-field wall. The ovation continued—a rarity for a visiting player.
Crosby followed Thomas’ eighth homer with his sixth, Jay Payton doubled and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a former teammate of Thomas’, came to the mound. Seconds later, he was ejected by plate umpire Doug Eddings for his comments about balls and strikes and then got in the ump’s face to vent his anger before leaving.
In his next at-bat with some boos pouring out of the stands, Thomas lined a ball into the left-field corner. But, bothered by a sore quadriceps muscle, he could only motor slowly to first for a single as Mark Kotsay raced from first to third. Crosby then hit another RBI single for a 3-0 lead.
Thomas wasn’t done. In his third at-bat in the fifth, he yanked another pitch from Garland over the bullpen in left—his 27th career multihomer game and first with the A’s.
Chicago’s Paul Konerko hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 in the fifth.
Garland gave up 10 hits and four runs in 6 1-3 innings. He was facing an A’s team that was held to one hit Sunday by the Giants’ Matt Cain. Oakland starter Barry Zito gave up four hits and a run in six innings, but walked six.
Thomas’ last multihomer game came on June 12, 2004, against the Braves. … The game was delayed for several minutes in the second inning when a squirrel raced across the grass in left field, avoided two security personnel and ran down the left-field line before disappearing behind the tarp.