Thomas, elected to baseball's shrine along with former Atlanta
Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in results announced on
Wednesday, called himself "the happiest man in the world" on
Thursday for honestly slugging his way to Cooperstown.
An outspoken critic against performance enhancing drugs, the former
college football tight end belted 521 home runs with a .301 batting
average and .419 on-base percentage over a 19-year career spent
mainly with the Chicago White Sox.
"They made their own decision," Thomas told reporters at a midtown
Manhattan hotel after a formal news conference with Maddux and
Glavine in which they donned Hall of Fame jerseys.
"We live this life with rules and regulations. You break the law you
go to jail. In baseball, you break the law, you're not going to be
in the Hall of Fame."
The 2014 election came a year after a Cooperstown shutout in which
no players won enough votes for induction.
The prospective 2013 class had included home run king Barry Bonds, a
seven-time Most Valuable Player, and seven-time Cy Young winner
Roger Clemens — both strongly suspected of having used performance
"Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have a special place in my heart
because I competed with them for so many years and I know what they
were before all this scandal took off," said Thomas.
Clemens and Bonds were each named on slightly more than one-third of
the 571 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association
of America, less than halfway to the 75 percent required for
election to the Hall of Fame.
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The 6-foot-5 powerfully built Thomas, who played both
baseball and American football at Auburn University before
joining the White Sox in 1990, was turned off steroids during an
orientation session at college.
"Our freshman orientation for football players had a special
film session and they showed us the effects of steroids and the
numbers who died that no one talked about," Thomas said. "NFL
players and college players, and it was a long list.
"They showed the effects of what it did to the body and what
guys looked like 10 years later and 20 years later. So that
affected me from day one. I would never do that."
Thomas, a two-time American League MVP, said the doping era in
baseball diminished his honestly-earned statistics.
"It kind of hurt me a little bit, because people didn't
understand how big my career was at certain times because guys
were hitting 50 or 60 (home runs) and they didn't deserve to be
hitting 50 or 60.
"People respect my career a lot more now," added Thomas. "I was
putting up incredible numbers there, and then certain things were
beginning to happen and guys went to 50 and 60 and they looked
at my 39, 40 and said, 'He isn't doing anything.'"
The slugger, beaming in satisfaction wearing his Hall of Fame
cap and jersey, said he held no grudges.
"I'm proud to say I'm in the Baseball Hall of Fame. To be part
of something the rest of my life, something I earned, 100
percent earned, I'm the happiest man in the world."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; editing by Frank Pingue)
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