COOPERSTOWN — In 1991, Frank Thomas visited the Baseball Hall of Fame but only briefly.
“I walked in here one time in 1991 and walked right back out,” he said. “I was here with Bobby Thigpen ... after he set the single season save record (of 57 with the White Sox in 1990). It was really my first full year with the big team. I thought, ‘I really don’t belong here yet and I walked back out.’”
There’s no question he belongs now.
Thomas, who was elected in January as a first ballot Hall of Famer with 83.7 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, made his orientation visit to Cooperstown on Monday.
“It was special. I got a complete history lesson,” said Thomas, the former Chicago White Sox star who’ll be inducted into the Hall on July 27 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, along with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Thomas said he thinks the big class will translate to a big crowd in Cooperstown this summer.
“It is going to be record breaking,” he predicted.
Erik Strohl, the Hall’s vice president of exhibitions and collections, gave Thomas a tour of the museum and the archives underneath the museum. Strohl selected several artifacts from Thomas’ career that are already in the Hall to show “the Big Hurt” including a jersey from 1994 and the bat he used to hit his 300th home run.
Soon Thomas said he will donate a couple of his Silver Slugger trophies for his display, along with a 3-foot long, 5-pound piece of rebar that he famously swung in the on-deck circle. Thomas said he found the metal on a construction site near the White Sox spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., and thought it would be good for practicing his swing.