Frank Thomas earned Major League Baseball’s highest honor by being elected to the Hall of Fame today. The first baseman/designated hitter was able to join the prestigious group on his first ballot by receiving 83.7% of the votes, surpassing the 75% needed for election.

The “Big Hurt” played 19 seasons in the big leagues, but he will forever be remembered as a member of the Chicago White Sox organization.

During his illustrious career, Thomas made five straight All-Star Game appearances from 1993 to 1997, won two American League Most Valuable Player awards (1993 and 1994), collected four Silver Slugger awards (1991, 1993, 1994, 2000), and won a Batting Title in 1997 with a .347 average. In addition to the two MVPs, Thomas also finished in the top-10 of the AL MVP voting seven other times which gave him a total of nine top-10 finishes. In fact, Thomas earned his MVP recognition across 16 seasons from 1991 to 2006, signifying that he was such a dominant hitter for a very long time.

Despite all of those achievements, I still believe that Frank Thomas deserved more hardware based on his career statistics. During his 19-year career, the Hall of Famer hit .301, with 521 home runs (18th all-time) and 1,704 RBIs (22nd). Thomas’s ability to hit for average and power highlighted his career, but his patience at the plate was what separated him from most of the sluggers of his era. Thomas’ 1,667 bases on balls helped him carry a .419 on-base percentage (20th) for his career which led to a .974 OPS (14th) when paired with his .555 slugging percentage (22nd).

There was no doubt that Frank Thomas deserved to a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but it was still a great day for White Sox fans. Although nothing is a guarantee, Thomas’ first-ballot recognition was attainable because his career has never been linked to steroids. I firmly believe that the Steroid-Era actually helped Thomas garner first-ballot votes because the voters wanted to acknowledge that they appreciate “clean” players.

On a personal level, Frank Thomas was one of the reasons I became a White Sox fan. I enjoyed watching him play during the prime of his career, and I have many of memories of him in a White Sox uniform. Unfortunately, one of my greatest memories came while Thomas was not a member of the White Sox. In 2006, I was at the game when the “Big Hurt” made his first return to U.S. Cellular Field. I remember giving him a standing ovation as he came to the plate, only to sit down for a brief moment before giving him another standing ovation after Thomas sent a ball flying into the left field bleachers. He would later add another home run, giving me another reason to remember that game forever.

Hopefully, I’ll have another memory to add on July 27th as I am planning a trip to Cooperstown to see Frank Thomas officially inducted to the Hall of Fame!

-Eric Tichelbaut

Follow me on Twitter @etichel07