By Charles Goldberg
Frank Thomas was a slugger in baseball and an occasional tight end at Auburn.
Today, after a 19-year major league career that included 521 homers and two MVP awards, he's a Hall of Famer.
Thomas was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday along with former Atlanta pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. All went in on the first year they were eligible, considered the ultimate compliment to a baseball career. Earlier, former managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre were elected as Hall of Famers.
They'll be inducted into Cooperstown on July 27.
Thomas is the first player who played in the Southeastern Conference to receive baseball's most coveted honor. He was elected to Auburn's Wall of Fame in 2010, and is honored on the outfield wall.
Thomas was a first baseman for Auburn from 1987-89. He also spent a year as a tight end, catching three passes. He played his major league career, mostly as a designated hitter, with the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland A's and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a five-time All-Star and was named the American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and 1994.
"This is something that I will have to sit back in the next three or four days and figure it out because you can only dream so big, as this is as big as it gets for me," Thomas said in a statement.
Thomas hit an SEC-best .403 at Auburn in 1989.
"I think Frank Thomas will likely be viewed as the greatest hitter ever to play at Auburn," former Auburn coach Hal Baird has said. "He may be the greatest hitter in the history of the Southeastern Conference.
"The three years Frank was at Auburn were incredibly productive in every offensive way. He was certainly the most feared hitter in the league during those three years without question."
Thomas' major league stats included a .301 batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs, 1,494 runs scored and 495 doubles while drawing 1,667 walks in 2,322 games.
Thomas and Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams as the only players in baseball history to have a .300 average with 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks in his career.
According to the Associated Press, Maddux appeared on 555 of 571 ballots by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His 97.2 percentage was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.
Glavine appeared on 525 ballots and received 91.9 percent. Thomas, the Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career was a designated hitter, was on 483 ballots, 83.7 percent of the ballots.