This weekend, Frank Thomas said that he was unaware of all the steroid use going on during his career because, and I quote, it was "a secret society. I had no idea. I think I was the one guy that when they were having that conversation they would stop quickly when I walked in the room."
This is how I imagine it went down.
INT. White Sox Clubhouse - MIDNIGHT*
The year is 1997. A group of White Sox players, covered in burgundy velvet robes, their faces obscured, stand in the otherwise empty clubhouse. The only light is the candlight that dances menacingly upon the walls. At the front of the room is the leader, Jorge Fabregas, holding a goat and about to inject steroids into its throat for ritual sacrifice.
FABREGAS: And with this injection, we bathe the world in darkness. Feed, muscles, feed on the Deca Durobolin--
Just then, the room is bathed in blindingly white light as the fluorescents spark on, one by one, and Frank Thomas' heavy steps and grunts are heard. Thomas rounds the corner and walks to his locker, oblivious to the entire group standing there, silent, not moving. Eventually, as he pulls on a pair of workout pants, he looks up and sees everyone.
FRANK THOMAS: Oh, hey guys. I didn't see you there. Wait...it's midnight. What are you all doing here?
FABREGAS: We could ask you the same thing.
THOMAS: Figured I'd get a couple swings in, maybe blast my pecs for a little bit. Try and get out of this slump by getting even stronger. You guys?
FABREGAS: Oh, you know. About the same.
The group murmurs in agreement.
FRANK THOMAS: Oh, cool. Cool. Wait. Why are you all wearing robes?
FABREGAS: Oh, these? Uhh...
Lyle Mouton steps forward.
MOUTON: We, uhh, just finished working out. They're our new post-shower robes. Do you like them? They're very warm.
THOMAS: Yeah, they're all right, I guess. Don't really see the need for the hood, though. Little menacing if you ask me. Wait, Jorge. Why do you have that goat? And that comically large hypodermic needle held to its throat?
FABREGAS: Ha ha. Oh, you know, Frank. Boys will be boys.
THOMAS: I...don't...really...see what that has to do with--
FABREGAS: Well, we don't want to keep you from your workout. Ray, Ray Durham, would you be a doll and go spot Frank for his workout?
DURHAM: But Jorge...what about the, you know?
FABREGAS: (whispering) Later, Ray. Later.
Durham takes Thomas by the hand and leads him out of the room. Frank Thomas never questions anything.
THOMAS: I'll see you guys later. And if you're still around when I'm done, maybe we can stop at Denny's, get a skillet scramble or something, ya know?
ALL: (scattered, mumbling) Yeah, you know, I got this thing. Busy later. Thanks for the offer, just ate though.
But the question will always remain, just what organization was it that Thomas stumbled in upon, lucky to leave with his beefy arms and beefier head still attached to the rest of his body?
There's the Illuminati, an always popular choice, but sports doesn't seem to be their forte.
Skull and Bones is a possibility, but no Yale ballplayers were on Thomas' teams, though he came very close to crossing paths with Craig Breslow who joined the Athletics in 2009, a year after Thomas retired.
Steven Goldman, back in 2005, offered up compelling evidence for an 80 year old conspiracy, possibly perpetuated by the Spinach Grower's Association and famous cartoonists, but even then I'm reluctant to agree.
The Umpire's have their own secret society as evidenced by the Smithsonian who held a program entitled "Baseball Umpires: A Secret Society." But while it is now a well-known fact that umpires have their own cabal, it is more likely that they run underground backgammon games and manipulate world markets than pass steroids through the league.
No, the lone remaining option is perhaps the most shocking one: The Big Hurt Fanclub, an organization of which I was a member during my youth. What better way to hide a steroids ring and bring in funds than in plain sight, right under Frank Thomas' nose?
Why else would a children's membership card absolve Big Hurt Enterprises and Frank Thomas of all responsibility? Or that "Big Hurt Enterprises" can be rearranged to spell "Steruits Be Her Spring," a known rallying call for all steroids users and is rumored to be what Alex Sanchez told his agent when he was the first ballplayer suspended for PEDs. Who knows just how many kids, after joining the Big Hurt Fan Club in hopes of receiving autographed photos, unknowingly provided the financial wherewithal and legitimate business front to spur on the entire steroid era?
So, while Frank Thomas may very well have played his entire career clean, hitting .301/.419/.555 with 521 home runs along the way, it was those around him, abusing Frank's trusting nature that allowed the steroid culture to flourish. It's just another reminder that we must remain ever vigilant against the forces that work in cloaked secrecy. Or something like that.
*Note: All ballplayers herein have in no way been associated with steroid use. At least, as far as I know. But, hey, it was the 90s. All the cool kids were shooting up.