Frank Thomas was the last player who went into the Hall of Fame representing the Chicago White Sox.
On a hot, steamy afternoon in Cooperstown, New York, Thomas turned up the heat even more with an emotional speech that ran almost 20 minutes.
When he steps up to the podium Sunday as a member of the newest Hall of Fame class, Harold Baines figures to keep his speech short and sweet.
“I think one [Hall of Famer] said, ‘thank you’ and sat down,” Baines said. “I’ll definitely beat that one. It might not be much behind that, but I’ll say more than ‘thank you.’ ”
Beating the odds to get to Cooperstown, Baines was ushered into the Hall in December by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee. White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former Sox manager Tony La Russa are members.
A career .289/.356/.465 hitter with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI over 22 seasons while playing for the Sox, Orioles, A’s, Rangers and Indians, Baines initially was on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
Needing 75 percent of that vote to make it to the Hall of Fame, the outfielder/designated hitter never garnered more than 6.1 percent.
Spending much of his 22-year career (14 with the White Sox) at DH did not help Baines’ Hall cause.
“I started out in the outfield and got hurt pretty early in my career,” he said. “I was fortunate, the American League had a DH and I still could hit a little bit. And I had a manager that believed in me, Tony La Russa, that gave me a chance.”
Baines barely registered with the BWAA vote, but he did hit .300 or better in a season eight times and had 20 or more home runs 11 times. He also was a six-time all-star.
“He talked with his bat,” former Sox teammate Ron Kittle said. “You saw him get better and better every year. The White Sox looked after him, and I was just honored to be associated with him in the minor leagues and then to get a chance to play with him in the big leagues.”