Frank Thomas may be having the last laugh.
The longtime Chicago White Sox slugger who believes he "lost the most" during MLB's Steroid Era earned election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility while the vote totals for PED-tainted superstars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both dropped in their second appearances on the ballot.
"It's unfortunate that those few guys are not going to make it into the Hall Of Fame who I knew who had incredible careers. But it's one of those things that I'm so glad I grew up in an area that there was no shortcuts to success. I went to that Auburn University program. It turned me from a boy to a man so fast that I understood hard work," Thomas said during an appearance on MLB Network on Wednesday. "I'm just so blessed right now. I'm just so happy that people can understand that, yes, I was a 100% clean player."
Thomas joined pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in the Hall's Class of 2014. All three players were voted to Cooperstown in their first year of eligibility after being named on more than 75% of ballots submitted by voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Thomas was named on 83.7% of ballots while several of his standout contemporaries failed to garner enough support for election as voters grapple with the specter of steroids hanging over the 1990s and 2000s.
"I think, realistically, all the media knew that I was the one guy that lost the most in this whole thing with the PED era," Thomas told Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago after learning he had been elected. "It wasn't a stance, I respect all my peers but I don't respect their choices. I'm so happy I did this the right way because it meant a lot to me."
Dubbed "The Big Hurt" by White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson in 1992, Thomas spent 16 of his 19 seasons with the White Sox as a first baseman and designated hitter. A two-time American League MVP, Thomas recorded seven seasons with more than 30 home runs, 25 doubles, 100 RBI, 100 walks, a batting average higher than .300 and an on-base percentage higher than .425. He has also maintained that he put up all of these staggering stats without the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Watching all the nonsense unfold and not really knowing what was going on, it makes me much more proud of my career," Thomas had said shortly after the BBWAA shut out all 37 candidates on the 2013 ballot, including Bonds and Clemens. "I competed in that era. I played at a high level in that era. There are a lot of great players, but as it unfolds, a lot of it was not the real deal. I know 100 percent I was the real deal."