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Thomas retires with Sox; next stop Cooperstown?
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 2/12/2010 2:36 PM | Updated: 2/12/2010 4:06 PM

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When asked about his likely enshrinement into the Hall of Fame in five years, Frank Thomas subtly corrected the questioner.

"We all think about those things," Thomas said during Friday morning's press conference to officially announce his retirement at U.S. Cellular Field. "Four years from now, hopefully I'll get that call. I put in the work, I think my resume speaks for itself, and I will be honored to be a part of that class of players."

Thomas already spent the 2009 season on the sidelines when not one major-league team made a pitch for his services.

Spending most of the down time with his wife and four children at his Las Vegas home, the 41-year-old Thomas had plenty of time to reflect and decided to finally call it quits.

"It took awhile to get to this point," said Thomas, the most prolific hitter in White Sox history. "I know I haven't played since 2008 but I had to get baseball out of my system. That's why I made this announcement.

"I'm happy with this announcement. I'm at peace with it. I had one heck of a career. I'm proud of it. It's been one (heck) of a ride."

Thomas spent 16 seasons (1990-2005) with the Sox and is the franchise leader in 12 offensive categories, including home runs (448) and RBI (1,465).

Overall, the "Big Hurt" is a career .301 hitter with 521 HR, which ranks 18th all-time, 1,704 RBI and 1,667 walks, the ninth-most in baseball history.

Thomas split his final three seasons between the Oakland A's and Toronto Blue Jays, but he ended his career in the right place.

"I look at all of the great superstars who have had tremendous careers, for some reason it seems like there's never a happy ending to the super, superstar careers," Thomas said. "It seems like in the final years they end up playing on other teams but they always end up coming back to where it's home, and this is home for me.

"I'm really proud and really honored to be able to retire here as a Chicago White Sox player."

Thomas, the American League MVP in 1993 and 1994, is going to have his No. 35 retired on Aug. 29, when the Sox host the New York Yankees.

"I'm very, very proud and honored," Thomas said. "Like I've said, if it was up to me I would have played every year of my career here in Chicago. But I understand pro sports, as guys get older guys move around. But this is where I always wanted to be and to have my number retired here, it's a huge honor."

Be it a contract dispute, injury issue or beef with a manager, teammate or reporter, Thomas at times found himself mired in controversy during his years with the White Sox.

Time has healed all of those wounds.

"Everyone who enjoyed watching Frank Thomas perform during his outstanding career with the White Sox quickly realized we were watching one of the greatest offensive players of all-time, a player destined to rewrite our club's record books," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "When your career comes to an end and your body of work is compared to Hall of Famers like Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, you truly rank among baseball royalty.

"I believe it is only a matter of time until Frank receives the game's greatest honor in Cooperstown and he unquestionably deserves the honor of being recognized among the elite White Sox players in this franchise's history by having his No. 35 retired."

As for coming back to work for the Sox like several of his former teammates - GM Kenny Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and coaches Joey Cora, Harold Baines, Greg Walker and Mark Salas - Thomas is keeping the door open.

"We'll see," Thomas said. "Right now I really don't know what the future holds. I'm just happy to finally get to this point of my career and I'm happy to say Frank Thomas is retired. It's a moment that took a long time and after achieving so long in a game and a sport, it really is hard to walk away.

"I'm just glad I took this 14 months to reflect on what's important and finally getting to this point."