OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Frank Thomas has accomplished many feats in his career, winning two MVP awards, hitting 501 career home runs and being picked for five All-Star games while becoming one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Yet his best memories come from his one year with the Oakland Athletics instead of the 16 he spent with the Chicago White Sox.
``Last year was my most enjoyable year in baseball ever,'' Thomas said Monday before playing his first game in Oakland since leaving for Toronto as a free agent. ``Last year it was just extremely fun to play baseball again. It was a wild bunch of guys who liked to have fun on a daily basis. I really brought my game back to where it should be last year.''
layoff series since 1990.
Thomas parlayed that success into an $18.12 million, two-year contract with the Blue Jays.
``It was very difficult to leave,'' Thomas said. ``It wasn't an overnight decision. I waited for a few weeks. The A's offer wasn't getting any better. I had some great offers on the table. I'm at the point in my career where I can't walk away from that.''
When Thomas left Chicago he traded barbs with White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, who called Thomas ``an idiot'' and ``selfish'' after reading about how the slugger was disgusted with how the organization sent him packing. Thomas departed his second team on a much more friendly note, calling A's general manager Billy Beane ``classy.''
The feeling was mutual and many of the A's exchanged hugs and greetings before the game with their former teammate. Thomas got a warm ovation from the crowd before striking out in the first inning against Lenny DiNardo.
``He meant a lot to everybody,'' A's manager Bob Geren said. ``He was great. I'm looking forward to seeing him and congratulating him on his 500th homer. He did a lot for this team last year. I don't know if we would have gotten where we got last year without him batting in the middle of our lineup.''
One of the few bright spots this season for Thomas came last week when he became the 21st player to reach 500 career home runs. Thomas said he was most proud of the fact that he ``did it the right way,'' a reference to allegations that other players who reached that mark may have used performance-enhancing drugs to get there.
Thomas is hitting .243 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs for the Blue Jays, who entered the game with a 39-42 record. Toronto has had to put its top starters - Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett - on the disabled list this season and lost closer B.J. Ryan to a season-ending elbow injury.
``Unfortunately we've been in a situation this year where we had so many injuries and it's been a miserable first half,'' Thomas said.
Thomas also said he had talked recently to Milton Bradley, who Thomas said was ``bummed'' after being let go by the A's last weekend.
``He really wanted to finish the season here and come on strong in the second half just like he did last year,'' Thomas said. ``With the injuries he had two years in a row I understand that Billy Beane did what he had to do.''
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