Baseball / Sports

Emotional Thomas gives thanks in Hall speech

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux had two different approaches Sunday in their Hall of Fame induction speeches.

Thomas teared up on stage in an emotional speech, while Maddux threw in some edgy humor in his.

Both Chicago baseball legends did great jobs in thanking everyone who made their inductions happen, and both thanked the city where they began their Hall of fame careers,

"Thank you to the city of Chicago," Thomas said. "You guys made the Big Hurt who he was in the greatest sports town in America. I know I'm biased ... but I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Maddux said "the city of Chicago and all Cubs fans were awesome- maybe the best in baseball."

Thomas choked up on a few occasions, talking about his late father, Frank Thomas Sr., and his late agent, Robert Fraley. He said his parents "worked so hard to instill core values" in him and his siblings.

"We didn't have much, but my parents were tireless with me and my four siblings," he said. "Frank Sr., I know you're watching and smiling. 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 it.' I took that to heart, Pops. Look at us today.

"We're a long way from Columbus, Georgia. Mom, thanks for hanging in there and believing in the same vision. I know it wasn't easy, but I thank you for all the love and support. Raising all of us was tough, but you and dad made sure we made it."

Thomas thanked his children and his wife, Megan.

"When we met, life was throwing me a curveball, one that I could not hit," he said. "But meeting you really put pep in my step and made me believe in love again."

Thomas said Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf "did a lot for me and still mean a lot to me," and gave special shout outs to former teammate and manager Ozzie Guillen and Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

"I can thank (Guillen) for giving me my only ring," he said, referring to the 2005 championship.

Thomas said Harrelson's nicknaming him the 'Big Hurt' "really changed my life forever." Thomas called Walt Hriniak his favorite hitting coach. "He would always say to me, 'Anyone can be good, Frank. But the special ones want to be great.'"

At the end of his speech, Thomas thanked everyone from clubhouse man "Chicken Willie" Thompson and trainer Herm Schneider, who was also mentioned by La Russa in his speech.

"Sorry I can't ramble all day," Thomas said, naming dozens of former coaches, players, employees in one long soliloquy. Thomas then named so many former teammates and other employees his speech lasted 17 minutes and 45 seconds.

He finished with a lesson on playing the game the right way.

"To all you kids, just remember one thing from today, there are no shortcuts to success," he said.

Former White Sox manager Tony La Russa also gave credit to the organization for starting his Hall of Fame career, and gave a shout-out to former Sox players including Harold Baines, Jerry Koosman and Tom Seaver.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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