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updated: 1/9/2014 10:25 AM

Sox slugger Thomas joins HOF with Maddux, Glavine

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  • White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday after receiving 83.7 percent of the vote.

       White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday after receiving 83.7 percent of the vote.
    JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer/file

  • Frank Thomas holds up a baseball he signed 'Frank Thomas HOF' during a news conference about his selection into the Baseball Hall Of Fame on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.

      Frank Thomas holds up a baseball he signed 'Frank Thomas HOF' during a news conference about his selection into the Baseball Hall Of Fame on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Associated Press

  • White Sox slugger Frank Thomas gestures during a news conference about his selection into the MLB Baseball Hall Of Fame Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Thomas joins Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as first ballot inductees Wednesday, and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, elected last month by the expansion-era committee.

      White Sox slugger Frank Thomas gestures during a news conference about his selection into the MLB Baseball Hall Of Fame Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Thomas joins Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as first ballot inductees Wednesday, and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, elected last month by the expansion-era committee.
    Associated Press

  • In this July 30, 1994 file photo, Chicago White Sox's Frank Thomas follows through on a home run against the Seattle Mariners in Chicago. Thomas is among three high-profile players on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. The votes will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

      In this July 30, 1994 file photo, Chicago White Sox's Frank Thomas follows through on a home run against the Seattle Mariners in Chicago. Thomas is among three high-profile players on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. The votes will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
 

The offensive numbers have always said Frank Thomas was going to the Hall of Fame, most likely on the first ballot.

In addition to the .301 batting average accrued over 19 major-league seasons -- 16 with the White Sox -- Thomas ranks 10th all-time in walks (1,667), 14th in OPS (.974), tied for 18th in home runs (521), 20th in on-base percentage (.419) and 22nd in RBI (1,704).

"He worked extremely hard at being a great hitter," said Paul Konerko, who was Thomas' Sox teammate from 1999-2005. "He was very big and very strong, but his swing and approach were so sound that he would have hit no matter what his size. The fact that he was that big made it even better. If you crunch all the numbers, he's probably one of the top five hitters of all-time."

Not only is Thomas the best hitter in Sox history, he does have to be considered one of the best ever to swing the bat in baseball.

Still, "The Big Hurt" was sweating out his first crack of Cooperstown the past few days.

"It's been a long week, to be honest," Thomas said Wednesday. "A really bad last 72 hours. I never really paid attention to how much is said about the Hall of Fame until this month, January and December. It makes everyone nervous.

"The only person that couldn't be nervous was Greg Maddux because the only problem he had was, was it going to be 100 percent for him? For the rest of us, we lost a lot of sleep, I'm sure."

Thomas can rest easy now, because he is headed for the Hall of Fame.

In voting conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Thomas' name was on 478 of 571 ballots. That's an 83.7 percent success rate, easily surpassing the 75 percent minimum.

"I'm just proud and happy for this moment," Thomas said Wednesday during an afternoon press conference at U.S. Cellular Field. "What a career, that it's turned into something that you've always dreamed of. When kids dream about playing pro sports, they like to go to the baseball Hall of Fame so it's a gigantic moment for me."

Going to the Hall on the first ballot has become an imposing challenge, given the "steroid era" Thomas played in, but he's long been a vocal critic of his chemically enhanced peers and enough skeptical BWWA voters obviously thought he did it right.

"It means a lot," Thomas said of making it on the first ballot. "I can tell you the truth now, if I would have gotten there on the first two or three it wouldn't have mattered. Just to get to the Hall of Fame means a lot. Going in the first time, it's overwhelming, it really is.

"You play baseball for so many years, you tend to forget what you did early in your career. But I started to reminisce a little bit this week and started thinking about how long I played here and what the city was like in my hey-day. You kind of forget about those things.

"As a player you start thinking about your last four or five years and not really what you did earlier in your career when you were a young buck. So I had an impact and I'm proud of that impact and today as a first ballot Hall of Famer, what a day."

As for players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro -- who are never likely to make the Hall of Fame due to the either proven or suspected use of performance enhancing drugs -- Thomas again showed little sympathy.

He also said his massive size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and skill might have had something to do with the surge in steroids.

"I look at a couple guys, one in particular, we all know who it is, that was a Hall of Famer before all of this started for him," said Thomas, who now splits his home between Libertyville and Las Vegas. "As for the others, I'll be honest, I think I was one of those guys that made a few guys go that direction, because of the size and the strength of a football player playing baseball. For a seven-year run there, no one basically could compete. There were only one or two guys who put up numbers that could compare.

"I don't fault anyone for what they did but hey, I did it the right way. That was more positive of my family, teaching me the right way of going about things, and it was my personality and what I did on the field."

Thomas said he was also worried that primarily being a designated hitter the last 11 years of his career would cost him big Hall of Fame votes.

"It made it a little uncomfortable because so many people were trying to say, 'Frank Thomas doesn't play the field,'" Thomas said. "If you followed me in Chicago, I played first base a very long time for this organization. But if you want to talk about DH, I think the last impression was my last 6-7 years as a full-time DH. To spend so long in the game, you've got injuries, you've got everything you've got to overcome. The DH extended my career and I'm proud of that.

"And I tell people right now, just because you're DH doesn't mean it's an easy position to play. It's one of the most difficult positions in baseball to play. When I played first base I hit .340 (actually .337) for my career and at DH I was somewhere around .280 (.275). It's an extremely difficult position and I think I did as well as possible."

• Follow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter@scotgregor, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.

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