July 27, 2014
Frank Thomas has a reason to behappy as a Hall of Fame inductee
By Charles Goldberg
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Frank Thomas says it's been a magical weekend. Don Sutton says the Big Hurt hasn't seen anything yet.
A round of parties and get-togethers, meetings with friends and families, will culminate Sunday when Thomas, the former Auburn and big league slugger, and five others are inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sutton says you can't help but feel the tradition.
"I've never visited Vatican City, and I don't mean this to sound trite, but I think if you're a baseball person, this is like the church of baseball," said Sutton, the Atlanta Braves announcer and a 1998 Hall of Fame inductee.
Thomas is going in with Braves' pitching greats Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and their manager, Bobby Cox. Former managers Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa are going in, too.
Thomas met with the media Saturday, attended a VIP party at the Hall of Fame, too. He says he's practiced his acceptance speech time and again, and that he's ready. Sutton says inductees only think so — until they are joined by previous Hall of Famers.
"I don't think that will hit them until they walk out there to make the speech and they start to make it, and you turn and you glance, and you see who is behind you," Sutton said. "History is sitting right there behind you. That's when I think it will hit them in the pit of the stomach. Have they been thinking about it every day since they got the announcement? Yes. But I think when you stand there, and you start to do your speech, 'I'm one of them.' That's when you say, 'I'm one of those guys.'"
Thomas will be one of those guys, remembered as a home run hitter who could hit for average.
"He could hurt you in so many ways. He was fun to watch," said Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
Thomas was patient at the plate, to be sure, but the Hall of Fame came without much of a wait. He's a first-ballot winner. This week, he's been dealing with all that comes with it.
"You get a million texts and calls, emails from everybody, nonstop," he said. "I got 100 people here, family and friends. Everybody wants your time in the morning. I am like, 'Man I have no time right now. I love you guys, enjoy it and hang out.'"
Thomas' mother, Charlie Mae, is here. Thomas' father, Frank Sr., is not. He died in 2001. But Thomas will keep him close and remember him on stage.
"My dad was the man. He pushed me like no other," he said. "Without him, I definitely doubt I would be here today. He would make me get off that couch and go to practice. He would push, push, push. He saw something early that I didn't see. I saw myself getting better in high school and then getting into college."
College. Auburn. Thomas paused to recognize the Auburn logo.
"I see my Auburn Tigers are here. Proud of that. That meant a lot to my life and career, going to Auburn. Without them getting me into shape -- I had never been in before in my life -- it paid dividends when I got to baseball, big time."
Saturday, Thomas talked about the impact Auburn made on him, first in football and then in baseball.
Then it was time for more family reflection.
"I think about my dad all the time. I think about the smile he would have on his face if he was here. He was a very proud man. And he was proud of his son. And you know this is the pinnacle. I can just see how big a smile he would have on his face. He would be running around here with No. 35 on his back, probably saying my son is going into the Hall of Fame. That is the type father I had and he deserved that."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine