By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — Sox Fest was the first time newly selected Hall of fame White Sox slugger Frank Thomas could share his honor with the loyal fans who supported him for 15 years in Chicago.
The 45-year-old star had his own seminar that filled an entire ballroom at the downtown Palmer House Hilton. After a 45 minute session, Thomas was smiling ear to ear after the festive event.
“This means a lot for me because I did try to satisfy the fans by playing hard and doing everything the right way” he told me. “I tried to be a role model for them. My former coach in college Pat Dye said in an interview with me the other day that I never had a bad bone in my body. He said in that radio interview we were both on, that we wanted all of our kids to grow up like you. That statement by Pat hit me right in the heart, because I always followed the rules. That was who I was and the way I was raised. My parents expected that out of me.”
Many fans in the session told Thomas they would be in Cooperstown on July 27th when he is inducted.
“This type of response and what I have been living the last two weeks is full closure to my career,” he said. “After July 27 the cheering stops. After a long gut wrenching career, this is certainly the way you want it to end. I am so proud of it and to have a bust in the hall of fame and a plaque that will last forever when I am dead and gone,that means so much to me.”
The ‘Big Hurt’ is the first Sox player to go into the Hall of Fame with a White Sox cap on the plaque since Nellie Fox was enshrined in 1997. Despite his gaudy career numbers, Thomas played with a mangled left ankle the last four seasons of his career.
“I played hurt because the game meant everything to me,” Thomas said. “After that ankle injury, I was determined that it would not end my career. I said to myself that I could still help some team with my bat somehow. I knew I couldn’t run very well but god gave me the ability to hit. and hit very well. They were some trying times and I had to wear a special orthopedic boot to play. At age 40 it caught up with me and I knew I had to let it go. ”
Thomas also had a compelling confession during his Q&A session.
“I knew some guys were doing PED’s during my career but it took me eight or nine years to realize how many were using them .”