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"Big Hurt" focuses on Pujols at World Series

By Larry Fine

ARLINGTON, Texas (Reuters) - Frank Thomas hit baseballs so hard they called him the "Big Hurt" during his big league playing days, so it did not come as much of a surprise when he revealed what he enjoyed most about this World Series.

"For him to have a night like he had the other night on the main stage, it was a big night for him and a big night for baseball."

Thomas, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player, hit for power and for average during his 19-season major league career in much the same mold as the Cardinals' slugger.

Built like a pro football lineman, Thomas crushed 521 career home runs, amassed 1,704 RBIs and owned a career batting average of .301 playing 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and finishing up with the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays.

Pujols, on course to eclipse the Big Hurt's prodigious numbers, put on a performance for the ages in Saturday's Game Three, splashing his name all over the World Series record book with three home runs, five hits, six runs batted and 14 total bases against the Texas Rangers.

And Pujols is not the only reason Thomas is appreciating this series as a commentator for mlb.com in Internet reports.

"Both teams are loaded with great hitters. This is a slugfest," he said. "This is a test of the pitchers. To beat these guys you're going to have to beat some really good lineups and they're both playing really good baseball."

On the subject of hitting, the conversation always swung around to Pujols.

"What makes Albert a really great hitter is his focus and his consistency. That's the sign of a great hitter," Thomas said. "Every at-bat he has a great plan and he sticks with his plan and that's why he has had such tremendous success.

"He's a pure hitter. And it's just great to watch. I love watching him hit.

"He's always hitting what the pitcher gives him, he's not trying to do too much. I just like watching him hit because that's what hitting is all about."

Thomas said there was no mystery to what sets Pujols apart.

"It's hard work and commitment. That's when you get results," he said. "This guy is a tremendous worker and that's why you see what you see."

COOPERSTOWN LOOMS

Thomas said he expected more fireworks in the series.

"It's been a great series," he said. "It's been up and down. Seems like it's evenly balanced. This is setting up to be a fantastic finish for baseball."

"I always keep my fingers crossed. I've done the work and hopefully I'll get my due," said Thomas, who is eligible for election to Cooperstown in 2014. "We hope and pray. Hopefully, it will happen."

What never happened for Thomas was a chance to show his skills in the World Series.

He said the 1993 White Sox was the best team he played on.

"It was a special staff and a special team, we just didn't get it done. I think we were one pitcher short.

"We lost to that great Toronto team that won back-to-back championships. They had four Hall of Famers on that team. Timing," he said, chuckling at his bad luck.

"Timing. Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson. And Joe Carter. That was a tough team."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg, To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)