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updated: 7/28/2014 8:50 PM

Frank Thomas was head of the class at Cooperstown this year

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  • Frank Thomas spoke from the heart and stole the show Sunday during his emotional Hall of Fame induction speech.

      Frank Thomas spoke from the heart and stole the show Sunday during his emotional Hall of Fame induction speech.
    Associated Press

 
 

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Frank Thomas was many things during a major-league career that spanned nearly two decades, the first 16 spent with the White Sox.

He was first and foremost a lethal right-handed hitter, almost like a man playing against boys. The biggest fear during my 12 years covering Thomas was this: He was going to smoke a line drive up the middle and kill the opposing pitcher.

I still remember a Sox game against the Mariners in 1995, when Thomas hit a shot right at Norm Charlton's head. It was a scary scene, and even though Charlton got his glove up to protect his face, the liner made contact and bloodied and broke his nose.

Fortunately for Thomas, the White Sox and major-league pitchers in general, most of his drives were elevated and either over or off the outfield fences.

So Thomas was a great hitter. He also was sensitive, driven, outspoken, smart, selfish at times, strong.

Truth be told, the game misses guys like the Big Hurt. Usually good and sometimes bad, he brought attention (and fans) to the game, and baseball misses the buzz that always surrounded the two-time MVP.

Speaking of buzz, Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremony was lacking a bit in the speech department.

No offense to the great Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, but their oratories weren't exactly stirring the large turnout of nearly 50,000.

That changed when Thomas took the podium. He crammed more emotion, tears and memories into his speech than the other five (Joe Torre also was inducted) Hall of Fame newcomers combined.

Thomas scored even more points for the way he handled the game's steroids scandal. He has been a vocal critic for well more than a decade, and Thomas reiterated Saturday what he has been saying all along.

"I had the biggest voice because I probably lost more than anyone else during that steroid era," Thomas said. "More MVPs, bigger contracts, different things like that that I deserved but didn't get. Look at me now. I'm in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for doing things right, and I definitely did it the right way."

During his rousing speech Sunday, Thomas wisely took a different route when delivering his latest anti-steroids message.

"To all you kids, just remember one thing from today," Thomas said in his closing remarks. "There are no shortcuts to success. Hard work, dedication, commitment, staying true to who you are."

So, why didn't he use his biggest stage yet to launch another attack?

"This is a special weekend," Thomas said afterward. "I just didn't think that stuff was necessary. We all know what has happened over the last 15 years of baseball. Today was a bright stage amongst heroes."

Name game:

A highlight of Frank Thomas' speech was the lengthy list of ex-teammates he thanked, rattling off many of them by nickname in a rapid-fire delivery.

Here is the list, and see how many names you can identify:

"One Dog, Rock, Grabek, R.V., Ozzie, Joey, Pudge, Karko, Psycho Lyons, Bo, Ellis, Black Jack, the Deacon, Sugar Ray, Alex, Wilson, Bere, Roberto, Thiggy, James Baldwin, Billy Bob, Buehrle, Hot Rod.

"D. Bo., Magglio, Carlos, Rowand, Jermaine Dye. He's here today along with Aaron Rowand. Ivan, Phil, Paulie, Crede, Uribe, Charles Johnson, Sandy, T. Phillips, Harold, Melido, Howry, Folke, Mike Jackson, Flash, Kenny, Sandy, A.J., Robbie, McIlroy, Maerullo, Spanky, Julio, Willie Chill, Singleton, Mouton, Davey, El Duque, Fordyce, Leifer, G. Bell, C. Everett, Danny Pasqua.

"D.J., McCaskill, Paul, Huff, Valentin, Abbott, Devereaux, Kammy Kam, John Kruk, Sirotka, Magrane, Freeman, Krueter, Norton, Tartabull, D. Lew, Scott Eyre, Navarro, Bradford, Castillo, Mark Johnson, Garland, Lowe, Eldred, Graffanino, Marte, Bartolo, Cotts, Glover, Loaiza, Contreras, Freddy, Politte.

"Jenks, Lee, B.A., Podsednik, Blanton, Keko, Duke, Gaudin, Harden, Haren, Kotsay, The late Joe Kennedy. He left us too soon and was a special friend of mine. Saarloos, Huston, Zito, Kendall, Melhuse, Swisher, Chavy, Crosby, Ellis, D.J., Scutaro, Milton, Kielty, J. Payton, Doc Halladay, Accardo, A.J., Downsie, Frasor, Rios, Casey, League, McGowan, Marcum, B.J., Towers, A. Hill, Vernon, Johnny Mac, Orlando, Reed, Raja and Big Red."

Hall humor:

There were plenty of laughs during Sunday's induction, and I really liked this one from Bobby Cox.

"On the bus ride over, Tom Seaver was talking about how nervous you can get up there," Cox said. "The one thing he said was, 'Don't forget your wife's name. Practice it right now.' "

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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