7/27/2014 6:57 P.M. ET
Big Hurt thankful for many as he enters Hall of Fame
Thomas' induction speech is roll call of those who helped shape his career
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The unofficial total of former teammates mentioned by Frank Thomas, covering the final two minutes of his almost 18-minute Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday before an estimated crowd of 48,000 at the Clark Sports Center, checked in at a robust 138.
Remember, Thomas did promise during Saturday's interview session that his speech was all about thanks. But why did the "Big Hurt" feel the need to point out so many? The idea that no man is an island emerges as the most precise answer.
"They all became friends," said a still somewhat overwhelmed Thomas during the news conference after the ceremony. "All those guys had something to do with my career, on the field and off the field.
Those mentions, which Thomas termed as a verbal montage, all but concluded an emotional journey that covered everyone from his family to his friends to key members of the White Sox, A's and Blue Jays organizations, for whom Thomas so expertly practiced his craft for 19 seasons. Going fifth in this memorable Hall of Fame class of six, Thomas sat like "Cool Hand Luke" as Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Tony La Russa shared their memories and baseball life before his turn.
Then, Thomas took to the podium after his plaque was presented. The first person he looked at was his mother, Charlie Mae, and the big man's knees began to knock. Now Thomas understands how some of the opposing pitchers felt when trying to sneak a 93-mph fastball by him.
"It hit me right in the heart," Thomas said. "My mom hasn't left Columbus [Ga.] in 15 years. I started crying right away. It was a big day, a huge day for me and my family. I felt really blessed."
Super on the South Side
Charlie Mae told her son Saturday that as soon as he mentioned his father, Frank Thomas, Sr., who passed away in 2001, the emotions would overflow. Thomas practiced the speech numerous times this weekend in between events, and he pointed out in Sunday's news conference that the practice turned out differently than his induction speech.
"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," said Thomas, drawing applause from the crowd. "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]."
At that point, the tears began to flow.
"You don't understand, my dad was my everything," Thomas said afterward. "He pushed me, day-in and day-out. He was so proud of me all the time.
"I was so overcome with emotion. I'm sorry about it, but I'm not sorry about it, because it is what I am, and I'm proud to be here with these great legends."
Other emotional moments for Thomas came when talking about his five children and wife, Megan, who made him believe in love again when they met 15 years ago. When Thomas spoke about his personal infrastructure, he began to tear up with the mention of his first agent, Robert Fraley, who tragically passed away in October 1999 in a plane accident that also took the life of golfer Payne Stewart.
"You are not here, my friend, but thanks for launching my career and giving me professional guidance. It's priceless," Thomas said. "Robert, you once said to me, 'Life is not fair. You have to work hard to earn your respect.' You were so right. I thank you for being honest with me. I know you are somewhere in heaven directing traffic, because that's what true leaders do."
In paying homage to the White Sox, with whom he spent 16 years of his career, Thomas thanked chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his hitting mentor, Walt Hriniak, among the 40 members of the organization, including all of his general managers, managers and many coaches, trainers and front-office and clubhouse personnel. He gave a special shout out to Ozzie Guillen, who was a teammate of Thomas form 1990-97, was Thomas' manager for 2004 and '05, and helped give Thomas his only World Series championship.
"We had that special bond for many years," Thomas said of Guillen. "I thank you, Ozzie. I thank you very much."
Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the colorful White Sox television play-by-play announcer, was unable to attend the ceremony due to a personal matter, but he was not forgotten . Harrelson bestowed the nickname "Big Hurt" upon Thomas, which really changed his life. Thomas joked Saturday that more people call him by forms of the nickname than his actual name.
One point Thomas did not belabor was the PED era of baseball, which Thomas believes took as much from him as any player in the game. Thomas stayed with his theme of appreciation, thanking the Hall of Famers seated behind him on stage, the heroes and role models, as described by Thomas, who made the game what it is today.
"Thanks for having me in your club," Thomas said.
"To all you kids out there, just remember one thing from today," Thomas added at the end of his speech. "There are no shortcuts to success. Hard work, dedication, commitment. Stay true to who you are."