The worst summer in Chicago baseball history dragged on forever, followed in short order by one of those old-school, brain-freeze winters from our childhoods.
If watching pathetic teams and avoiding hypothermia builds character, we truly have been blessed.
But Wednesday will be a day for Chicago to forget about the polar vortex and the chill factor, the booted grounders and the blown saves. By the afternoon, we'll know whether former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas will join former Cubs' ace Greg Maddux in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The voting trend seems to be in Thomas' favor. The latest compilation of numbers by Baseball Think Factory, a website that keeps track of Hall of Fame voters' publicly announced ballots, showed Thomas polling at 90.5 percent, much more than the necessary 75 percent necessary for election.
Of the other top candidates, the website has Tom Glavine as a lock, Craig Biggio barely making it and Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris and Tim Raines falling short.
Only one voter -- MLB.com's Ken Gurnick -- publicly has revealed a ballot without Maddux's name on it, meaning the 355-game winner will not be the first player to be unanimously elected to the Hall. Maddux still can become the all-time leading vote-getter if, as expected, he passes Tom Seaver's 98.84 percent in 1992.
Maddux, no doubt, will shrug it off. He typically was low-key about personal goals, once declaring he was already "on bonus points" in his career.
Thomas, on the other hand, has been waiting his entire life for this day, and never was shy about saying so early in his career.
It wasn't until after 2001, the year his father died and he missed five months with a triceps injury, that Thomas admitted his priorities had changed. His prodigious numbers had tailed off while other sluggers, some artificially enhanced, were zooming past him. Also hanging over his head was the dreaded "diminished-skills clause" in his contract, giving the Sox the ability to pare Thomas' salary from $10.3 million to $250,000, with $10.1 million deferred.
Before the 2002 season began, a Wall Street Journal article on borderline Hall of Fame candidates suggested Thomas' chances of inclusion had diminished greatly over the previous three seasons. The Big Hurt was hurting inside, and it showed.
"I have kids to raise now and I have a job to do, just go do it at the highest level possible," Thomas said at the end of spring training in '02. "But the pressure is not going to be to prove I'm the best ballplayer of all time. It's not that important to me anymore. ... The bottom line is you can have a great career and still not get in. I'd love to get in and I'll continue to play hard and give it everything I can. But once the day is over, it's over for me now."
Now the big day finally is here.
In their long history, 27 players who have worn a White Sox uniform have been elected into the Hall of Fame. But several made only cameo appearances on the South Side, including Steve Carlton (1986), Ron Santo (1974), Johnny Evers (1922), Chief Bender (1925), Roberto Alomar (2003-04) and Clark Griffith (1901-02). Only eight Hall of Famers spent 10 or more seasons on the Sox: Ed Walsh, Luke Appling, Eddie Collins, Ted Lyons, Ray Schalk, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio and Carlton Fisk.
Fisk was the last true Sox player to make it, in 2000. But he still was associated more with the Red Sox, and correctly chose to wear their cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. The last player with a White Sox cap was Fox, whose career ended in 1963. He wasn't selected until 1997, when former Tribune columnist Jerome Holtzman paved the way on the Veterans Committee ballot.
Will Thomas make it on the first ballot? He admitted last month he was nervous, pointing to the loaded ballot of candidates.
But the champagne assuredly is on ice ... just like the rest of us.
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