Baseball legends Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn go back a long time.
Before they were competing against each other on the baseball diamonds of Major League Baseball, the pair faced off in the NCAA regionals as college freshmen, “The Big Hurt” Thomas at Auburn and “Hit Dog” Vaughn at Seton Hall. Not long after, the two faced off once again when they were both playing in the famed Cape Cod League when Vaughn’s Wareham team defeated Thomas’ Orleans squad two games to one in the league championship series.
The competition only continued in the majors with Thomas winning back-to-back MVPs with the White Sox in 1993 and ’94 and Vaughn denying him a three-peat by winning it with the Red Sox in 1995.
Thomas and Vaughn had a rivalry, but it was a friendly one that led to plenty of “motivated” chats at first base between the two All-Stars.
“You’re not going to get anything else to hit,” Vaughn tells InsideHook about how he tried to beat his rival. “I’d tell him [Thomas] I already told the pitcher to walk you, you know, to try to get in his head. It never worked. He would always try to get in my head too. It was a good rivalry, it really was.”
Now that their playing days are over, the former rivals have teamed up on a venture Vaughn started called MVP Collections with Thomas recently coming aboard as a partner. Started with the idea of providing plus-size guys with high-quality clothing options that don’t look like they came off the discount rack and fit in a flattering fashion, MVP Collections wants “to bring back sexy for big men,” Vaughn says.
Thomas, who served as an ambassador for Rochester Big and Tall in the early ’90s, first got a glimpse of pieces from Vaughn’s collection in a DXL store in Las Vegas in 2017. Impressed with what he saw, Thomas immediately gave his old buddy a call.
“I knew I was doing right because he just said, ‘This stuff is great. Send me clothes,’” Vaughn says. “Right there I knew we had hit the bullseye in terms of what we were trying to do. And then I was just ecstatic that he put it in his mind to be called a partner. It’s about acknowledging a good brand and a good company, but you’ve got to have good people behind it and I think he fits what we’re trying to do.”
Vaughn’s partner confirms he found MVP to be a perfect fit at first sight.
“It started from there and it’s taken almost two years to become a partner,” Thomas tells InsideHook. “And I’m proud to be here because fashion is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always shopped at DXL stores and I’ve seen that progression from T-shirts and big jeans to ugly shoes to now style and fashion. It’s great now for a big man to go to a store and see some serious fashion and bigger sizes. I’ve always loved the styles and trends. At one point, I had my tailor making all that stuff, and luckily I could afford it as big league ballplayer. Now we want to make something affordable for everyone. Bigger clothes that fit, at a great price point.”
As Thomas puts it, MVP is filling a hole in the fashion market which has long been neglected. “I can tell you right now, shopping big for the last 30, 35 years of my life, it’s not easy. Now we’re going to make it easy. We’re gonna make it very affordable. For us, our goal is to be inspirational and to be role models and to make sure we take care of the big guys because no one has really taken care of the big guys before when it comes to fashion.”
Made in the USA, options in MVP’s line include suede bomber jackets, distressed denim jeans and shorts, layered T-shirts and button-ups.
“I’ve already been approached by others to do smaller sizes because the fabric is so hot and the patterns are so hot,” Thomas says.
To make sure all the clothes are up to his standards, Vaughn himself serves as the fit model. “I love big bright colors and I’m a walking billboard,” he says. “I love to express myself through my clothes, I always have. I tell most guys it’s a conversation starter when you’ve got a hot shirt on and everybody can see you coming.”
Now, with fashion-conscious customers examining their clothes on the track the same way analysts used to break down their swings in the batter’s box, Vaughn and Thomas are still striving to be the best.
“I’ve always had that passion to compete and to be number one and bringing that to this brand, that’s our goal,” Thomas says. “We want to be the top in men’s fashion. “So with Moe and I, the competition level now has even changed to be more a bigger, better thing because we really want to be the best out there. So it’s great to be in the same dugout, so to speak, because our minds are matching and the competitiveness is right there for both of us.”