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updated: 7/28/2014 5:39 AM

'Emotional' Thomas takes his spot in Cooperstown

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  • Video: Thomas inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

  • National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Frank Thomas speaks during Sunday's induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

      National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Frank Thomas speaks during Sunday's induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.
    Associated Press

 
 

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- You only get one Hall of Fame speech, so why not make it memorable?

Frank Thomas sure did Sunday after he was inducted into major-league baseball's ultimate shrine.

When he wasn't consumed thanking his family, old coaches, teammates, trainers, doctors, traveling secretaries and clubhouse attendants, the greatest hitter in White Sox history was fighting back tears and trying to keep his emotions from completely going off the tracks.

"I'm sorry about it, but I'm not sorry about it," Thomas said afterward. "It is who I am. I'm sorry, I'm an emotional guy because I wear my heart on my sleeve."

With an estimated crowd of 50,000 on hand, Thomas was feeling pretty good about his speech as his VIP bus neared Clark Sports Center, an idyllic spot in upstate New York.

"Turning the corner, Ozzie (Smith) said, 'It's for real now,' " Thomas said. "I was Cool Hand Luke sitting there listening to the other speeches, but as soon as I stood up my knees locked."

Thomas said he practiced his speech -- which ran almost 18 minutes -- countless times. "What you heard onstage was nothing like the practices," Thomas said.

In his opening remarks, Thomas was quick to thank his mother, Charlie Mae Thomas, and his late father, Frank Thomas Sr.

Thomas' mother had not been outside of the family's native Columbus, Ga., in 15 years, but she made the trip to the Hall of Fame. Coupled with his father's absence, Thomas had a hard time maintaining his composure.

"I would like to thank my parents for working so hard to instill core values to make the best of life," Thomas said while frequently drying tears. "We didn't have much, but my parents worked tirelessly for me and my four siblings. Frank Sr., I know you are watching and smiling from heaven. Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn't be here in Cooperstown today.

"Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me, 'You can be someone special if you really work at it.' I took that to heart, Pops. Look at us today. We are a long way from Columbus, Ga.

"Mom, thanks for hanging in there and believing in the same vision. I know it wasn't easy, but I thank you for all the motherly love and support. You and dad made sure that we made it."

Thomas went on to thank his wife, Megan, and five children. He thanked his four brothers and sisters, he thanked Robert Fraley, his late agent, and he also thanked countless others who helped put him on the path to Cooperstown.

When he got to the White Sox -- the team he is representing in the Hall of Fame -- Thomas gave hat tips to everyone from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to Ron Schueler to Terry Bevington to Kenny Williams, and he again talked about the major influence of hitting coach Walt Hriniak.

"Walt, I thank you for being honest from Day One," Thomas said. "You taught me to only want to be the best. You would always say to me, 'Anyone can be good Frank, but the special ones want to be great.' "

Thomas also had special salutes for two other members of the Sox.

"A special thanks to Ozzie Guillen," Thomas said. "Eleven years as a teammate and three years as a manager, and I can thank you for giving me my only (World Series) ring. We had that special bond for many years. I thank you, Ozzie. I thank you very much.

"A special thanks goes out to Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson. Hawk, thanks for picking me the Big Hurt. Your nickname for me really changed my life forever. I also want to thank you, Hawk, for being a friend, a source of guidance all those years on the plane, through the ups and downs, the good and bad times. It was priceless picking your brain."

After that, Thomas thanked almost 140 ex-teammates, including Jermaine Dye and Aaron Rowand, who were on hand for his induction.

"They all became friends," Thomas said. "Playing baseball for so many years, you develop friendships, and all those guys had something to do with my career, on the field and off the field. I had to cut 50 guys off the list and I feel bad."

At the end of his Hall of Fame speech, Thomas breathed a huge sigh of relief.

"It was a big day," he said. "It was a huge day for me and my family. I feel like I have 50 pounds off my back. It was a heavy week, a special week.

"I have my place in history now."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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