Big Hurt hopes he's first-ballot Hall of Famer
Former Sox slugger critical of players who used performance-enhancing drugs
CHICAGO –- Frank Thomas hopes he will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee when he becomes eligible in 2014.
"I think three of us have resumes that should be in there on the first ballot," said Thomas, speaking to a group of reporters at the Palmer House Hilton during Saturday's SoxFest festivities, and including Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in his off-the-cuff 2014 Hall of Fame class. "I spent my whole career working my butt off and hopefully I get what I deserve.
"My resume speaks for itself. Losing a third MVP to a guy who admitted he was [using] PED. I think that would have put me at another level that only a couple of guys have enjoyed ever in this game. The 12-year-run I had was incredible, very historical. So, I think I've done enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."
Thomas' on-field numbers seem to support his beliefs.
Over a 19-year career beginning with 16 years with the White Sox and ending with stops in Oakland and Toronto, Thomas hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs. Thomas also scored 1,494 runs, but his remarkable stats are taken up a notch through a .419 career on-base percentage, 1,667 walks and just 1,397 strikeouts.
He captured American League Most Valuable Player awards in 1993 and '94, and finished second to Jason Giambi in 2000, when Thomas hit .328 with 43 homers and 143 RBIs. Giambi later apologized for using performance-enhancing drugs during that season.
That PED cloud seemingly caught players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa in the latest Hall of Fame vote, where nobody earned the required 75 percent to be elected, despite all three of these players having worthy numbers. Thomas spoke Saturday as to how hard work got him to this elite level, while adding that he felt no sympathy for his friends who apparently chose an alternate route.
"I wouldn't say I feel bad for them. I respected them on the field, but they chose this. They made their own decisions off the field and they have to live with it," Thomas said. "Watching all the nonsense unfold and not really knowing what was going on, it makes me feel much more proud of my career. I competed in that era and I played at a high level in that era.
"There were a lot of great players, but as it unfolds, a lot of it was not the real deal. I know 100 percent of mine was the real deal. These guys did put up some incredible numbers, but they are fake.
"Any time you look at the PED situation and the situation with Lance Armstrong, you look at stuff like that and it's serious out there," Thomas said. "I just thank God I'm blessed I did it the right way and have a good family base that made me outwork everyone else, because that's the only way I made it to the big leagues. I was never that blue chip prospect."
Individuals who played with or against Thomas might disagree on his blue chip level.
New White Sox bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen was Thomas' teammate from 1990-93 and called Thomas the most massive individual he's ever seen.
"When he first got there, you could just tell that he was going to be great just by looking at him," said Thigpen of Thomas. "Being with Frank when he came up, it was just something with the things he did. Just phenomenal. That's why he's a Hall of Famer."
John Danks never played with Thomas, but held him hitless in four head-to-head at-bats. He remembers how big Thomas was in the box and how he stood way off the plate, kind of inviting a pitcher to throw out there, primarily because that was where he wanted a pitcher to throw.
"Frank is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my mind. He's the greatest hitter in White Sox history," Danks said. "He's never been caught up in any of the other stuff and he just went about his business and hit the hell out of the ball."
Aaron Rowand, who played with Thomas during the team's 2005 World Series title run and is his Las Vegas neighbor, remembers a big hitter with a big heart.
"Just a physical specimen, an unbelievably gifted guy and an unbelievably generous guy," Rowand said. "As big of an image and a persona that Frank had, he always treated everybody with respect. It didn't matter if you were a Single A player or veteran guy. He always treated everyone the same.
"What he could do offensively is unprecedented. We've seen him get jammed in Kansas City and his bat break in two pieces and hit the ball out. You don't see anybody that's 6-foot-6, as big as he is, that was as good of a hitter as he was."
Thomas probably won't need these numerous references to sway the voters. He admitted surprise in Craig Biggio and his 3,060 career hits not getting in this year, and hoped Biggio will be part of a big Hall of Fame class in 2014.
As emotional as Thomas was when the White Sox retired his No. 35 on Aug. 29, 2010, that feeling would pale in comparison to Hall of Fame induction.
"Oh, God. Getting to the Hall of Fame, you can only dream of that," Thomas said. "I just wanted to have a successful career, but getting to the Hall of Fame, that's ... . I would be speechless."