The Big Hurt's big moment

The Big Hurt's big moment
January 8, 2014, 8:45 pm
Share This Post

They told him the phone call would come between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. A call Frank Thomas has been dreaming about for as long as he can remember.

But it wasn't coming.

"At 12:13, I looked down at my phone and I was like, 'This doesn't look good,'" Thomas said.

The Big Hurt had become a Big Mess.

"My kids were just working me the whole morning. They were just as stressed as I was. It got an hour away, then the stress really came on. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was just holding my phone just sitting there."

[MORE: The Big Hurt gets the Hall of Fame call]

Then at 12:15, Frank's cell phone started buzzing. A familiar voice was on the other end of the line. It was Jack O'Connell of the Baseball Writer's Association of America, the same person who called Frank in 1993 and 1994 to let him know he had been named the American League MVP.

Now he was contacting the Chicago White Sox legend to deliver the biggest news of his baseball life.

He's a Hall of Famer.

"Thank you Jack. Thank you sir!" Thomas said. "Oh my God. I'm so happy. You don't know. It's been a stressful three hours."

Actually, it was a tense month for Thomas who wasn't sure if he'd have enough votes to make it to Cooperstown on the first try.

"The last month was crazy. It got worse and worse and worse each week. I've been a mess the last 72 hours."

[RELATED -- Frank Thomas on PEDs: I respect my peers, but not their choices]

Now he could breathe.

"I'll be honest. This is the happiest day of my life," Thomas said in his first interview after learning about his Hall of Fame induction. "You play baseball such a long time, your whole life. It just cements your career. And for me, I'm just so happy. I'm thrilled. I'm that one percent that gets into the baseball Hall of Fame. I feel so blessed right now."

From the very beginning of his baseball career, the Big Hurt had big dreams.

"When I got [to the White Sox in 1990], I said I wanted to make a difference. I always felt like I wanted to be a historical player. People look at you like you're crazy when you say stuff like that, but those were my dreams. I got off to such a fast start in my MLB career that I continued to work harder and harder and harder. I got obsessed with the sport and here we are today. Hard work pays off."

His eyes started welling up.

"The only reason I'm not crying is that I got in the steam room this morning for 35 minutes so I got all of the water out of my system."

Thomas looked down at his cell phone. He already had 105 text messages from friends and family. It was a "This is Your Life" moment, where everybody from your past contacts you at once. Former coaches and teammates from high school, college, the White Sox, A's, and Blue Jays all reached out to him.

[ALSO: Frank Thomas makes baseball history as first true DH to enter Hall of Fame]

Frank's first phone call was to his mom. It came during the 45 minute media embargo when he couldn't tell a soul. Something tells me a call to your parents is excused.

"It's something I had to do. I swore her to secrecy," Thomas said smiling.

Unfortunately, his father Frank Thomas Sr. isn't around to enjoy this tremendous day. He passed away in 2001.

"He's the one person that's not here right now that pushed me from day one. He was at all my practices. I'm talking high school and college " Thomas said. "He was alive to see me win a couple MVPs. He was so proud of me. I know him. He's in heaven right now smiling on me, I'll tell you that."

At a time when the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa can't get within miles of Cooperstown, Thomas has become the symbol of a steroid era player who did it clean. He can thank the Auburn Tigers baseball program for scaring him straight. During his freshman orientation, they showed him and his teammates tapes of what taking steroids can do to your body.

"It scared the living daylights out of a lot of us. I was blessed to have that a part of my life at the age of 18.'

Thomas never believed in shortcuts, even though many of his peers cheated their way to success.

"I think realistically all the media knew that I was the one guy who lost the most in this whole thing with the PED era," Thomas said. "I worked my butt off, man. From day one I continued to climb, but it wasn't a stance. I respect all my peers, but I don't respect their choices. I'm so happy I did this the right way, because it meant a lot to me."

[RELATED -- PHOTOS: Frank Thomas celebrates his Hall of Fame election]

This July, Thomas and his family will be there in Cooperstown, where his baseball career will reach the ultimate destination.

"It's the Mt. Rushmore of baseball." he said. "I can't believe a small boy from Columbus, Georgia is going to be a part of that."

Has he thought about what he'll say in his induction speech?

"Not yet. I'm sure it's going to be a dandy, because there are a lot of people to include. I don't want to leave anybody out."

All that really matters though is who is going in.

Frank Thomas.

His day has finally arrived.