CHICAGO (AP) — It was more than just a big day for The Big Hurt.
Former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas called it a "gigantic moment" and wore a grin wide enough to connect the foul poles at U.S. Cellular Field after he was elected Wednesday to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was picked on 478 of 571 ballots by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, more than enough to get in and ease any fears he had of being overlooked.
"I never really paid attention to how much is said about the Hall of Fame over this month of January and December," Thomas said. "That makes everyone nervous. The only person that couldn't be nervous was Greg Maddux because the only problem he had was it going to be 100 percent for him."
"The rest of us, we lost a lot of sleep I'm sure. I'm just proud and happy this moment. What a career that has turned to something that you don't dream of. Kids dream about playing pro sports, but to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it's a gigantic moment for me," he said.
A two-time AL MVP and five-time All-Star, he was concerned he might get passed over because he spent a big part of his career as a designated hitter. Instead, he's going in with pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Thomas hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 runs batted in during a sparkling 19-year career spent mostly with the White Sox.
He also frequently spoke out against the use of performance-enhancing drugs in an era defined by it, and he's now headed to Cooperstown while tainted stars such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa remain shut out.
"I'm 100 percent clean, I'm so happy and proud of that," Thomas said.
Does he feel vindicated that he's in and they're not?
"No vindication at all," he said. "I've never really worried about the other players, and I probably was the last one that found out, honestly, that everyone was taking drugs. And I felt stupid about it, but I just didn't care what other guys were doing because I felt if I was healthy I was going to give you 40 home runs and 120 RBIs. That was just me every year. If that wasn't enough, it just wasn't enough."
And he stressed this point: "Numbers don't lie, and I tell people that every day. Numbers don't lie."
Thomas was a unanimous selection for MVP in 1993 when he led the White Sox to the AL West championship and their first playoff appearance since 1983. He hit .317 with 41 home runs and 128 RBIs that year and won it again in the strike-shortened 1994 seasons, finishing with a .353 average while knocking out 38 homers and driving in 101 runs.