A Monumental Day for White Sox Fans
Monday, July 28, 2014
The Big Hurt From the Heart
Cooperstown, NY — On a day when six baseball legends were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Frank Thomas distinguished himself by addressing the estimated crowd of 48,000 with a heartfelt and tearful acceptance speech that focused on his family, his teammates and many of the people who helped him along the way.
Thomas was greeted loudly and enthusiastically by the large throng of loyal White Sox fans who made the trip here for yesterday’s ceremony. Choruses of “Let’s Go White Sox” and the repetitive refrain of “Big Hurt, Big Hurt, Big Hurt” could be heard everywhere on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center.
An emotional Thomas thanked his mother, his siblings, his wife Megan, his five children, and gave a poignant tribute to his late father Frank Sr., who he said meant everything to him. “My Dad always said, ‘You can be something special if you really work at it. I took it to heart pops. Look at us today.”
Frank gave thanks to his Columbus, Ga. high school coach Bobby Howard for setting his foundation for life. He acknowledged his college coach at Auburn, Hal Baird, who treated him like a professional before he was one and former Tigers’ football coach Pat Dye who saw Frank’s talent on the diamond and encouraged him to play baseball exclusively. He talked movingly about how important his former agent, the late Robert Fraley, was to him and mentioned several others who have been instrumental in his life.
Thomas described his special relationship with White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak who told him that anyone can be good, it’s the special ones who want to be great. Frank said he really missed Hriniak when he left the Sox, but admitted he continued to hear his words: “Keep your effing head down and finish, Frank.”
When talking about the White Sox, among those Frank saluted were Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf (“you did a lot for me and you still mean a lot to me”), Eddie Einhorn, Kenny Williams and some folks who were responsible for drafting him like Larry Himes and Al Goldis and his first manager, Jeff Torborg. He credited those managers who followed and thanked Ozzie Guillen for getting him his only World Series ring. He gave special thanks to Hawk Harrelson for giving him The Big Hurt nickname, which Frank said changed his life forever. He also was kind enough to give a couple dozen or more shout-outs to former coaches and other Sox personnel who have worked behind the scenes–people like trainer Herm Schneider, who Thomas said always gave him the best possible care, as well as Vinnie Fresso, the current Sox clubhouse manager, and even a certain PR man.
The most unique part of Frank’s speech was his verbal montage that included a long list teammates through the years, estimated anywhere from 138 to 166. As many as Frank named, because of limited time he had to delete about 50 for the final version.
Thomas also thanked the city of Chicago and said they made The Big Hurt who he was, adding that he enjoyed every moment he played with the Sox.
Frank began his speech thanking the Hall of Famers on the dais for letting him into the club and gave a bit of advice that he repeated at the conclusion of his talk:
“There are no shortcuts to success. Hard work, dedication, commitment and staying true to who you are.”
Below is the transcript of Frank’s speech (top link), which may have changed a bit during the actual delivery, and a video clip of his talk:
A Thoughtful LaRussa
It came as no surprise that Tony LaRussa had some thought-provoking observations, including some about his time with the Sox:
–Talking about his years in Chicago, Tony said: “It was a wonderful experience. With the White Sox, we had this unique opportunity. The best example was a game in New York against the Yakees. Tom Seaver is going for his 300th win. Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk is catching him. To be part of that and to watch him pitch a complete game…” He also talked about the 1983 Sox who went to the postseason for the first time since 1959 and the leadership of Greg Luzinski and Jerry Koosman.
–He talked about the presence of hitting coach Charley Lau and preaching the three T’s–Team, Tenacity and Toughness.
–He said that highly respected baseball man George Kissel, also acknowledged in Joe Torre‘s acceptance speech, advised him how to approach a career in baseball: Love the game and learn it. “And for the next 35 or 36 years, it was always about loving the game and learning it, ” Tony said. “And it’s incredible. The more you learn, the more you love it. And the more you love it, the more you want to learn.”
–LaRussa on managing: “Preparing is like studying for a test, the players take the test.”
–He said, “…I’ve been very, very fortunate. And the more I think about it, I’ve never put my arms around the fact that being really lucky is a Hall of Fame credential.”
–And: “I am personally uncomfortable on this stage. But I believe I finally came to a resolution. I was in three great situations. Great. And I believe the way to accept this tremendous honor is as a representative of all those mentors, coaches and members of the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals.”
Here’s a video clip of Tony’s speech:
The 2014 Hall of Fame Class of Six
Here they are: Bobby Cox, La Russa, Tom Glavine, Thomas, Greg Maddux and Torre, the largest class since 1971.
An Enormous Crowd Witnessed History
Yesterday’s crowd was the third largest crowd in Hall of Fame history (photo courtesy of South Side Sox).
Sox Fans Everywhere Took Pride in Frank’s Induction
Here’s one of them. This is Stanten Jones, the White Sox rep in the MLB Fan Cave, watching his hero.
Hall of Fame Notes
Hank Aaron got the biggest applause of all the Hall of Famers, receiving a standing ovation…a tribute and moment of silence honored two Hall of Famers, Tony Gwynn and Ralph Kiner, who passed away in the last year…The final count of Hall of Famers in attendance was 50, out of the 66 still alive …Chairman Jane Forbes Clark mentioned that there are now 306 members of the Hall of Fame out of all of those who have been involved in the game over 138 years.
From Columbus, Georgia to Cooperstown
Sox Win Series in Minny, Abreu Extends Hitting Streak
While we were focused on Cooperstown the past few days, our eyes, of course, were also on the Sox in Minnesota where we took three of four from the Twins. Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 17 yesterday and has now hit in 34 of his last 35 games. The Sox are in Detroit beginning Tuesday for a three-game series.
Photos of the Day