Fans at SoxFest get chance to cheer Big Hurt
Thomas takes part in Q&A on heels of first-ballot Hall of Fame election
CHICAGO -- Recently elected Hall of Famer Frank Thomas took the stage Friday night at SoxFest to a standing ovation from fans who praised the former White Sox first baseman for getting to Cooperstown "the right way."
Thomas, one of the game's all-time greatest sluggers and among the most feared hitters of his generation, was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection earlier this month, receiving 83.7 percent of the vote.
On Friday, the opening night of SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton, Thomas took part in a 30-minute question-and-answer session with fans. Thomas also was joined by White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson and former Sox player and announcer Tom Paciorek.
Thomas, never shy about speaking out against those who used performance-enhancing drugs, said although he played during the steroid era, he firmly believes he was contemporaries with some of the greatest hitters of all time. Thomas named Ken Griffey Jr. and Mo Vaughn as two other feared hitters he respected during his career.
"One thing about the era I played in: A lot of it was tainted, but there were a lot of good players in there," Thomas said. "We had some talented hitters. From 1992 all the way to early 2005, those were some of the greatest hitters probably to ever live."
Thomas also was asked about the toughest pitcher he faced, naming former Yankees and Mariners reliever Jeff Nelson, against whom he was 5-for-31 with 11 strikeouts. When asked of a great pitcher whose number he had, Thomas said former Yankees and Orioles righty Mike Mussina.
"I don't know why," said Thomas, who hit .366 against Mussina with nine home runs. "I think he's a Hall of Famer."
Asked about his favorite day during his 19-year Major League career, Thomas said: "For me, my coming out as a player was at the All-Star Game in 1995. I think that it was just a big couple days for me."
His coming-out party eventually led to two MVP Awards, five All-Star selections, 521 home runs and a .301/.419/.555 career slash line. He spent 16 of his 19 years on the South Side, where former teammate Paul Konerko said Thomas proved himself to be "in the Hall of Fame of the Hall of Famers as far as numbers go."
Harrelson agreed, saying Thomas' game transcended eras.
"They always ask me to compare players and it's tough to compare players in different time zones, because the culture of the game is a little different," Harrelson said. "Frank is the kind of guy who could have played in the 1920s, '30s, '40s, '50s … anytime.
"Watching Frank, he did things that I couldn't believe; that I had never seen before."