It can’t get much bigger for the ‘Big Hurt.’
White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his first year of eligibility, receiving 83.7 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Thomas, who hit 521 home runs over a 19-year career, including a franchise-record 448 with the White Sox, will join Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine at the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. in July.
Former managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, who managed for the White Sox from 1983-86, will also be inducted.
“After I got all the information from the Hall of Fame a month ago explaining 18,000 will play in the majors and only one percent will go to the hall of fame, it made me go back in my chair and go, ‘Wow just getting there is really special’ ” said Thomas, who called Wednesday the best day of his life. “When I got in the league I told people I want to do something special in my career. People thought I was crazy at times 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 will be the first player to wear a White Sox hat into Cooperstown since second baseman Nellie Fox was inducted posthumously in 1997.
Nicknamed the ‘Big Hurt’ by longtime White Sox announcer Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson because of his massive 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame, Thomas hit from the time he arrived in the majors until he retired in 2008.
Thomas won the AL MVP award twice in the first five seasons of his career and was a Top-5 finisher on four other occasions. He was a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger and finished his career with a .301/.419/.555 slash line with 1,494 runs and 1,704 RBIs.
A designated hitter more than half of his career, Thomas -- who had a career OPS-plus of 156 -- rapped out 2,468 hits and drew 1,667 walks while only striking out 1,397 times.
“Induction into Cooperstown is the game’s greatest honor, and to see Frank’s plaque placed alongside baseball’s other outstanding hitters brings his White Sox career full circle,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a press release. “Frank is the greatest offensive player in White Sox history, a line drive hitter and on-base machine in a slugger’s body.
“He now deservedly joins baseball royalty like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron, as well as Sox legends like Louie (Aparicio), Nellie (Fox) and Luke (Appling), in Cooperstown.”
While Reinsdorf said last month it would be a “miscarriage of justice” if Thomas weren’t voted in, both he and White Sox manager Robin Ventura acknowledged the fact that Thomas played 56.1 percent of the time at DH could hurt his candidacy.
The first player with a majority of his games played at DH to be elected to Cooperstown, Thomas earned induction by a comfortable margin of ballots cast by the BBWAA. Players need to receive at least 75 percent of the vote to gain entry into the Hall of Fame.
“It's been a long week, to be honest,” Thomas said. “A really bad last 72 hours. I never really paid attention to how much is said about the Hall of Fame until this month, January and December. It makes everyone nervous. The only person that couldn't be nervous was Greg Maddux because the only problem he had was it going to be 100 percent for him? For the rest of us, we lost a lot of sleep I'm sure.”
The seventh overall pick of the 1989 amateur draft, Thomas arrived on the South Side in August 1990 and helped awaken a struggling franchise.
After four straight losing seasons from 1986-89, the White Sox produced five straight winners with Thomas and Ventura in the middle of the lineup, including a 1993 American League West title. The White Sox made three postseason appearances in Thomas’ 16 seasons, including the 2005 World Series title, though Thomas was limited by injury to 34 games that season.
Thomas -- who finished with 73.6 Wins Above Replacement in his career -- left the White Sox after the 2005 season at age 38 and played two more full seasons, blasting 65 combined homers for the Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays.
One year after no players were to the Hall of Fame, Thomas is part of a large contingent gaining entry. Maddux, who pitched for the Cubs from 1986-92 and 2004-06, was listed on all but 16 of 571 ballots.
Glavine received 91.9 of the vote.
Houston’s Craig Biggio narrowly missed being elected as he received votes on 74.8 percent of the ballots.
The Expansion Era Committee unanimously elected Torre, Cox and La Russa last month.
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