Frank Thomas will be forever grateful to Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the Chicago White Sox's iconic TV broadcaster.
"This man put a nickname on me that pretty much made who I was over the years," Thomas said.
In 1991, his first full season with the Sox, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Thomas began an assault on opposing pitching that would run through 2008 and end with a .301 batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI and eventual first-ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.
"The Big Hurt."
That was the nickname Harrelson came up with, and it still plays today, nearly a decade after Thomas retired.
"It just stuck," Thomas said. "I had a lot of nicknames before that one, but that was the only one that ever stuck. Today people still call me the Big Hurt instead of Frank Thomas when I go places. It's kind of interesting what someone can bestow on you and he did that for me. I'm proud of it and very happy and blessed he did it."
Thomas was thrilled to sit next to Harrelson in the TV booth for Sunday's White Sox-Tigers game at Guaranteed Rate Field.
"It's great," said Thomas, a national baseball analyst for FOX. "Hawk and I have always had a great relationship. At times father-son, because baseball is a lonely sport sometimes. When you're doing well, everybody wants to talk to you. When you're not doing well, no one has answers. Hawk always had answers.
"His calls are one of a kind and when you get people across the country making those same calls, it tells you something about the success you've had as a broadcaster. I'm happy to be here on one of his final broadcasts."
On the baseball side of things, Thomas still keeps a close eye on the Sox. He was asked about the need for a rebuild.
Just like during his playing days, he was blunt.
"It's hard to say because it's Chicago and we're used to winning," Thomas said. "You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you've got to understand the (White Sox) have taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for obviously a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past and it wasn't working.
"The game has totally changed. It's a different ballgame now. It's all about the youth. The hardest part they're going to have is figuring out who's going to be here and who's not going to be here because over the next couple years, they've got so many young talented players in Double-A and Triple-A.
Thomas already has identified his favorite White Sox prospect.
"The kid Eloy (Jimenez), I've really watched him a lot," Thomas said. "He's a tremendous player. He reminds me of a young Vlad (Guerrero) that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I'm interested in seeing how he progresses."
Thomas was asked about Rick Renteria, and if he's the right manager for the Sox in the future.
"That's not up to me," Thomas said. "I think he's done a (heck) of a job. I really like Ricky a lot, but who knows what they're going to do in the future. When this team becomes what they think it's going to be, either you get it done or you don't. That's just what it's going to be.
"That's the way (Sox chairman) Jerry has handled it for many, many years. We've had some decisions that weren't all happiness at times, but it's about winning once they get their team here. I hope it's Ricky because he's done a (heck) of a rebuild job with the Cubs, he did a (heck) of a rebuild job here. It's just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do."