For Frank Thomas, the greatest White Sox hitter of all time and one of baseball’s best right-handed batters ever, getting elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility made his head spin.
“I am so short of words right now. It’s hard to think,” Thomas said shortly after receiving the news at his home in the north suburbs. “I’m in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.”
Thomas figured to make it on his first try and he received 83.7 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting announced Wednesday, comfortably above the 75 percent needed. But even hours after finding out, he still hadn’t absorbed the magnitude of the moment, saying he’d need a few more days to catch his breath, reflect and sort out his feelings.
“People thought I was crazy because of my lofty expectations, but I really wanted to do something special, and I worked my butt of for it and am so proud of this moment,” Thomas said. “To get 83 percent of the vote, my family and I are extremely happy.”
Also elected were pitchers Greg Maddux (97.2 percent) and Tom Glavine (91.9), who also were on the ballot for the first time. Second baseman Craig Biggio (74.8), who led the voting in 2013 but was not voted in, fell two votes short.
The Class of 2014 will be enshrined July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
A patient hitter who belted 521 home runs to go with a .301 batting average and .419 on-base percentage (20th all-time), Thomas also was one of the great sluggers of baseball’s modern era.
“Frank is the greatest hitter in White Sox history, a line-drive hitter and on-base machine with a slugger’s body,” chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement.
With a body that never was linked to performance enhancing drugs, Thomas became a two-time American League Most Valuable Player (1993, ‘94) who arguably deserved a third MVP award when he finished second to admitted PED user Jason Giambi in 2000.
He played 16 of his 19 seasons as a designated hitter and first baseman on the South Side, finishing with 2,468 hits, making five All-Star teams and finishing in the top five in MVP voting nine times.
“I am so happy that people understand that yes, I was a 100 percent clean player,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ dominant eight-season tear from 1990 to 1997 was remarkable. During that stretch, “The Big Hurt” batted .330 with a .452 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage and averaged 39 homers and 38 doubles per 162 games played.
Thomas, who works as a Sox analyst for Comcast Sports, expressed regret Wednesday about finishing his career in Toronto and Oakland. His relationship cooled with the Sox when he said after he left that he didn’t appreciate the way his stay in Chicago ended, prompting then general manager Ken Williams – who was away on business as the team’s executive vice president Wednesday – to say Thomas should “stay out of White Sox business.”
“I’m not afraid to talk about that,” Thomas said at his news conference at U.S. Cellular Field. “I’m a Hall of Famer and the Chicago White Sox have a lot to do with that. For me, leaving here was the hardest thing I had to do in my life. I wanted to start here and finish here and I didn’t get that chance. I felt it was taken away from me a little bit, but I had something to do with that.
“When you are that big organization guy for so long, you feel like you are invincible, and no one is invincible in pro sports. I’m just happy to be sitting right here in Chicago and right here at U.S. Cellular Field, holding my Hall of Fame press conference. I’m proud of that.”