COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Showing a heart that was just as big as any of the eye-popping numbers he produced in a storied career, Frank Thomas was moved to tears during his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday.
Thomas was, in fact, the only inductee to shed tears, losing it early at the mention of his late father Frank Sr., who passed away in 2001.
“Frank Sr., I know you're watching and smiling from heaven,” Thomas said to a crowd of 48,000 gathered on a grass field just south of the Hall of Fame doors. “Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn't be here in Cooperstown today. Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me: You can be someone special if you really work at. I took that to heart, Pops. Look at us today.”
At that moment, the tears began to flow as Thomas was at the outset of a 17-minute, 45-second speech that was big on thank yous.
Thomas went to every corner of his life to make sure those who helped make him the person and player he was were recognized. He concluded with a rapid-fire list of 138 former teammates Thomas insisted on including, even though he was well over his allotted time limit.
With all of his family in attendance, including his mother Charlie Mae, who hadn't left Columbus, Georgia, in 15 years, Thomas recalled his high school baseball days, as well as his time as a football and baseball player at Auburn.
He thanked agents, coaches, friends, business associates and anybody else who touched him over his adult life. After his family, he reserved the warmest comments for White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
“Jerry, thanks for a long and wonderful ride in that Chicago White Sox uniform,” Thomas said. “You did a lot for me and you still mean a lot to me. Thank you, my friend.”
Often criticized for being a me-first player, especially because of his extreme interest in statistics and league-leader lists, Thomas' speech was the antithesis of that. He showed a vulnerability that added to the emotion as well.
Sitting next to fellow inductee Joe Torre long after his speech was completed, Thomas finally looked at peace after an anxious weekend that had him anticipating his address to the overflow crowd. Torre smiled as Thomas spoke of the reverence he has for his father.
“It was rough,” Thomas said. “Some of the closest people in my life are gone. When you get to that, it’s a lot of emotion. My father meant so much to me, and he’s not here today. I probably won’t get over this until the day is over. It was a special moment. This was my grand finale. I wanted to thank all the people who touched me. I thanked everyone who got me to this point. I definitely didn’t get here alone and I’m proud of that.”
Ozzie Guillen also received significant mention. Guillen and Thomas had a unique bond, with Guillen often antagonizing Thomas. In turn, Thomas admitted he was able to use any anger or frustration he had toward Guillen and Joey Cora and turn it into success on the field.
“And a special thanks to Ozzie Guillen, 11 years as a teammate, three years as a manager, and I can thank you for getting me my only ring, because we had that special bond for many years,” Thomas told the crowd. “I thank you, Ozzie, thank you very much.”
If the years weren’t correct, the sentiment hit right on target. Thomas and Guillen were teammates for just seven years and Guillen managed Thomas for just two seasons.
Thomas went on to thank trainers and doctors for getting him back on the field each day, reserving plenty of love for longtime White Sox trainer Herm Schneider.
After naming as many teammates as he could pack into a short amount of time, Thomas’s speech circled back to White Sox fans.
“In closing I would like to say thank you to the city of Chicago,” he said. “You guys made the Big Hurt who he was in the greatest sports town in America. I know I’m biased but I thoroughly enjoyed playing for you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Oakland, Toronto, I thank you for great fan bases and also for making me feel at home. It was short-lived, but I appreciate the love from both of you great cities.”
Playing in the heart of the Steroid Era, Thomas prided himself on not using performance-enhancing substances during a 19-year career, but he declined to get steroids-heavy in his speech. But he did close with a little advice to young athletes everywhere.
“To all you kids out there, just remember one thing from today: There is no shortcuts to success,” Thomas said. “Hard work, dedication, commitment. Stay true to who you are. God bless you all and I thank you.”
Thomas said afterward that a Hall of Fame speech wasn’t the place for a discussion on steroids.
“It wasn’t thought,” Thomas said afterward. “This is a special weekend. I just didn’t think that stuff was necessary. We all know what has happened over the last 15 years in baseball. Today is a bright stage among heroes.
“I wanted to get that out to the kids. Don’t take the shortcuts. Don’t do what other people say is cool or because it’s going to make you better. Believe in yourself, hard work and determination -- stay true to yourself is something I wanted to get out there.”
While players with great numbers are on the outside looking in at Cooperstown, Thomas was able to speak in front of 50 Hall of Famers and five fellow inductees Sunday to talk about his road to greatness.
“I would also like to thank my parents for working so hard to instill core values to make the best of life,” Thomas said. “We didn't have much but my parents worked tireless for me and my four siblings.”