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updated: 7/23/2014 5:38 AM

Harrelson a big part of Thomas, La Russa's careers

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  • Jerry Reinsdorf, Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen visit before a game in 2006.

      Jerry Reinsdorf, Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen visit before a game in 2006.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • St. Louis Cardinals' Tony La Russa holds up the Commissioner's Trophy after Game 7 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 6-2 to win the series.

      St. Louis Cardinals' Tony La Russa holds up the Commissioner's Trophy after Game 7 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 6-2 to win the series.
    Associated Press

  • Frank Thomas smiles as he listens to a question during a news conference about his selection into the MLB Baseball Hall Of Fame in January.

      Frank Thomas smiles as he listens to a question during a news conference about his selection into the MLB Baseball Hall Of Fame in January.
    Associated Press

  • Frank Thomas rounds third base after a 3-run homer in 2003 against Cleveland.

       Frank Thomas rounds third base after a 3-run homer in 2003 against Cleveland.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

White Sox TV broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson has been to Cooperstown, N.Y., several times, but this weekend will be unique.

Harrelson is going to attend his first Hall of Fame induction, and it is going to be a good one for anyone with White Sox ties.

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Not only is Frank Thomas going in, so is Tony La Russa.

Thomas is the greatest hitter in franchise history, and he is the Sox' all-time leader in 10 offensive categories, including home runs (448) and RBI (1,465).

Earlier in his career, Harrelson tagged Thomas with a memorable nickname.

"He just got on a streak there for awhile and every time he swung the bat I'd say, 'Man, he hurt it; he hurt it,' " Harrelson said. "All of the sudden I'm up there one day and he was running around first base and he had hit one out there deep, real deep, and it just blurted out. I'm watching him go around first base and ... the Big Hurt. That's how it came about and it was a good one.

"I think it was voted what, third or fourth best nickname in baseball history. And he deserved it because he was the Big Hurt, no question about it."

La Russa got his start as manager on the South Side, and he was in the White Sox' dugout from 1979-86, when then general manager Harrelson fired him.

La Russa went on to manage the Oakland A's from 1986-95, where he won one World Series championship, and he managed the St. Louis Cardinals from 1996-2011, where he won two more titles.

"It's funny, he managed 33, 34 years in the big leagues and he only got fired one time, and your talking to the (bleep) that fired him," Harrelson said with a laugh. "He might go down as certainly one of, but maybe the best manager we've ever seen."

In addition to Harrelson, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf will also be in Cooperstown for the big weekend.

During Thomas' time with the White Sox -- especially when he was becoming one of only four players in major-league history to drive in 100 or more runs in each of his first full eight seasons -- Reinsdorf said the first baseman/designated hitter was the best right-handed bat he'd ever seen.

Reinsdorf has since added Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols to his list.

"I didn't know if (Thomas) was great right off the bat because the first time I saw him was in A-ball (Sarasota) and I had doubts that he could play first base," Reinsdorf said. "When I saw him play it looked like he didn't know where first base was. He worked hard enough to become a credible first baseman.

"And I remember the first month he was up here he didn't hit a home run, so we were wondering, 'Does this guy really have power?' But after a couple of years he started putting up numbers like (Lou) Gehrig and (Jimmie) Foxx and (Mel) Ott and (Babe) Ruth. You knew if he stayed healthy he'd get into the Hall of Fame."

As for La Russa, Harrelson fired the manager in his only full season (1986) as general manager.

"When he came to Chicago, I was a fan," Reinsdorf said of La Russa. "I didn't own the team at the time. He came up sometime in the '79 season and managed in 1980 and I bought the team in 1981. I remember at the time I bought the team I thought, 'Well, one of the first things I'm going to have to do is fire the manager,' because the broadcasters, (Harry) Caray and (Jimmy) Piersall, kept talking about how bad he was. And then I met him and realized how wrong they were.

"It (La Russa's firing) was the biggest regret. Well, it was the combination, naming a general manager that shouldn't have been a general manager and then letting him fire Tony."

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