White Sox retire Frank Thomas' No. 35
CHICAGO -- Frank Thomas shed a few tears moments after seeing his picture and No. 35 unveiled on the outfield wall as the Chicago White Sox retired the number of their greatest hitter in team history on Sunday before a game against the New York Yankees.
Thomas, who batted .307 and hit 448 home runs of his 521 career home runs with the White Sox from 1990-2005, was celebrated by a number of former coaches and teammates as part of "Frank Thomas Day" at U.S. Cellular Field.
White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was the emcee of on-field the ceremony.
"At this point, I'm emotionally drained," Thomas said. "I didn't expect it but to see a montage like that and to give Hawk a hug, the tears started flowing with Hawk; it got me. And then to see the picture on the wall just broke me down.
"Eighteen years in this game and 16 full ones here, it brought back a lot of memories, thinking about all the teammates and all the great times, good and bad times. It just got to me. I was emotionally caught up. I'm a very proud man and this probably was the proudest day of my life."
Among those on hand to see Thomas become the ninth White Sox player to have his number retired were Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and Jermaine Dye, who both played with him. They got big ovations along with Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso, while former manager Terry Bevington got booed.
There was a video tribute for Thomas, who was then presented a painting and framed jersey by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf near home plate before his image with the No. 35 was unveiled along the wall in left-center and fireworks went off.
Thomas is smiling with a bat on his shoulder in his outfield wall photo that is located between the photos and numbers of Pierce and Carlton Fisk. In fact, Pierce and Fisk revealed Thomas' wall portrait during the ceremony.
The honors for Thomas didn't stop with his number being retired. The White Sox also announced on Sunday that Thomas will get a life-size bronze statue on the outfield concourse to be unveiled in 2011.
"That's going to be great," Thomas said. "We've measured up for it already. ... It's going be a swinging stance, so it's going to be nice."
Chronicling 'Big Hurt'
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Thomas will become the eighth significant member of the franchise to get the bronze treatment, joining Charles A. Comiskey, Minnie Minoso, Fisk. Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Pierce and Harold Baines.
During his on-field speech, Thomas apologized for not thanking everybody for making him the success he was, but did specifically point out one member of the White Sox, thanking trainer Herm Schneider for getting him ready to play each day. He did thanks the fans, who were in their seats for the ceremony well in advance of the 1:10 p.m. CT start.
"They meant a lot, and they still me a lot," He said. "They treated me with love here, special, special love. To hear 40,000 giving you a standing ovation, it just got to me. I'll remember this the rest of my life."
Thomas' No. 35 now joins the retired numbers of Fox (19), Baines (3), Luke Appling (4), Minoso (9), Ted Lyons (16) Pierce (19) and Fisk (72).
A two-time AL MVP, Thomas posted 10 seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. He retired in February after a 19-year career in which he hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs.
"You want to talk White Sox, Frank Thomas' name has got to be No. 1," said Ozzie Guillen, his former teammate and manager. "I know Luke Appling played here. I know Nellie played here, I know Aparicio played, Baines -- all those guys. I think Frank Thomas did stuff for this organization that people are not going to forget."
"The Big Hurt" made his major league debut in 1990 and set club marks for homers (448) and RBIs (1,465) before splitting his final three seasons with Toronto. That came after a messy split with Chicago following the 2005 championship season, but the ill will eased in recent years, with the White Sox hiring him as an ambassador last month.
When he left Chicago, Thomas was upset when the club bought out his option for $3.5 million that December, and things got particularly nasty during the 2006 spring training. He sounded off against the organization in an interview with The Daily Southtown of suburban Tinley Park, Ill., and general manager Ken Williams responded by calling him "an idiot."
Thomas was angry with the organization for portraying him as a damaged player, although injuries to his left ankle limited him to 34 games and made him a spectator as the White Sox grabbed their first World Series title since 1917. So it was a bitter end to an otherwise storied tenure with the team.
"It's going to be some ups and downs if you play anywhere as long as I played," Thomas said. "It happens to all the big players. Sixteen years in one city and played at a high level for such a long time, you're going to have your ups and downs. I'm sorry, people want to knock you down sometimes. I'm used to that. I had broad shoulders; I had to get broader shoulders.
"There were some days that I wanted to just go in my locker and cry with all that stuff. But I kept finding a way to get it done. I'm proud of what I accomplished over 16 years here and thank all of Chicago," he said.
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.