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updated: 7/26/2014 11:23 PM

Thomas always driven to be great hitter

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  • Frank Thomas again addressed the steroids era -- and his disdain for it -- during a news conference Saturday in Cooperstown, N.Y. Thomas will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on Sunday.

      Frank Thomas again addressed the steroids era -- and his disdain for it -- during a news conference Saturday in Cooperstown, N.Y. Thomas will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
    Associated Press

 
 

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Frank Thomas faced plenty of Hall of Fame pitchers during his 19 seasons in the major leagues, 16 of them spent in a White Sox uniform.

He never seemed nervous at the plate, and his career .301 batting average, 521 home runs and 1,704 RBI were achieved by a calm, calculating monster (6-feet-5, 275 pounds) of a man.

Sunday will be different.

When Thomas makes his Hall of Fame acceptance speech at the picturesque Clark Sports Center, he's probably going to be shaking like a rookie in his first big-league game.

"It has kicked in," Thomas said. "It's reality, but it's very stressful, trust me. It's been a long week, man. This is like, wow. It's the finale, but a lot goes into this finale. This is big-time stuff.

"Going over to the stadium and seeing how big that field is, they are expecting it to be filled. I'm looking forward to it, man. I'm just overjoyed. But the nerves are there. I've been working out hard the last two days, but that's not working either."

Thomas always had something to say during his playing days, and the first baseman/designated hitter said he has been working on his acceptance speech for the past four months. Thomas said he has trimmed his talk from 20 minutes to 14.

"I'm anxious, but I'm really nervous," said the Sox' all-time leader in 10 offensive categories. "It's the finale; you want to leave your mark. I think we've all left our mark on the field, but I want people to understand that I do care about people and the people who made me who I am. That's more important to me than anything."

Thomas is sure to thank many of the 100 family members and friends who made the trip to upstate New York, and that includes his beloved hitting coach, Walt Hriniak, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, and ex-teammates such as Jermaine Dye and Aaron Rowand.

A.J. Pierzynski was in Cooperstown, but he had to made a quick exit to Wrigley Field after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Thomas isn't likely to boast about how he retired in 2008 as one of the best right-handed hitters the game has ever seen.

But if you ask him, he will tell you.

"I knew my job," Thomas said. "I'm not going to fool anyone. I was an offensive machine, and that's what my job was. I knew going into the ballgame every day, I knew I had to do something to help this team win offensively, and I took it upon myself to do that every single day."

What made Thomas extra special was his keen eye at the plate. He ranks 10th all time with 1,667 walks and 20th with a .419 on-base percentage. By comparison, six current White Sox players entered Saturday night's game at Minnesota with an OBP below .300.

"Most big guys are just wild swingers," Thomas said. "They want to hit everything. They want to go deep all the time. If they weren't going to pitch to me, take your base, get in line for the next man, and that's what was going to score runs. That helped us a long way for many, many years."

Thomas won a World Series ring in 2005, his final season with the Sox. But it was a difficult year, and ankle and foot injuries ended his career on the South Side on July 20.

"I didn't get to play (in the World Series), but I had an impact on that season, said Thomas, who batted .219 with 12 home runs and 26 RBI in 2005. "I came back way too early from that injury. I knew it, and the team saw that.

"That team had no holes; pitching, bullpen, all veterans for first time in my career. This is a special bunch of guys, and we have special pitchers and talent, defense and attitude in the clubhouse with the hitters. It was a well-put-together team, and those type win the world championship."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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