Congratulations to former Chicago Cubs star pitcher Greg Maddux and former Chicago White Sox MVP first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas for being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maddux and Thomas are two of the greatest players to ever put on a Chicago uniform, and now they will forever be remembered in Cooperstown, the site of the Hall of Fame. This is the first time the two were eligible to be on the ballot for the Hall, and the voters did not disappoint Chicago fans.
In order to be elected to the Hall of Fame the players must be selected on at least 75% of the voters ballots. The selection is nowhere near perfect, but this time the voters got it right. Maddux received 97.2% of the vote while Thomas received 83.7%. There was some speculation that Greg Maddux would be the first player ever to be unaminously elected into the Hall of Fame, but if Babe Ruth didn’t get 100% of the vote, I’m not sure anyone will. However, at the end of the day Maddux and Thomas are now Hall of Famers and that is the only thing that matters.
Maddux was drafted to the Cubs in 1984 and made his way into the majors in 1986 as the youngest player in baseball at age 20. He had a poor year in 1987 as he was adjusting the major league style of play, but he flourished in 1988 by winning 18 ball games. This started his stretch of winning 15+ games 17 years in a row, which is an MLB record. After the 1992 season Maddux left the Cubs in free agency and became a member of the Atlanta Braves. Although his numbers may have been better while playing for Atlanta, Chicagoans will always remember him as a Cub. He returned to the Cubs lineup in 2004 and played with them for three more seasons. Maddux was not going to blow a hitter away with his fastball, but played to his strengths and found a way to get batters out.
Everytime Maddux took the mound Cubs fans knew it would be a great day at Wrigley Field. He brought a sense of electricity to the ballpark that was lacking during some of the down years. No matter the record, whenever Maddux took the ball he would always give his team a chance to win. Maddux is a true professional and acted like it on and off the field. Playing during the “steroid era” Maddux was accustomed to facing batters linked to steroid allegations. His numbers are extremely impressive, but taking into account that Major League’s steroid usage was at its peak during his playing time, makes them even better. His electricity is still felt to this day, being in the stands when his jersey was retired in 2009, was one of the only times I have seen grown men cry. Greg Maddux will always be remembered as one of the greatest Chicago Cubs players of all time.
As Greg Maddux was playing for the North Siders, the South Siders had a star of their own in the making. Frank Thomas had a dominating career at Auburn University in the late 80’s and was selected 7th overall by the Chicago White Sox in 1989. He made his way to the majors late in the 1990 season, and played his first full season in the majors in 1991. He was quickly nicknamed “The Big Hurt” due to his physique and his extraordinary power skills. Thomas knocked 24+ homers in his first eight full season with the White Sox. Thomas dominated pitchers during his career. He would strike fear in anyone he faced because he had the ability to go deep on any pitch, but his phenomenal eye for strikes and balls made it hard to pitch around him because he had no problem taking walks. As a member of the White Sox Thomas hit 448 home runs and had an on base percentage of .427.
Growing up as a Cubs fan I have never been a big supporter of any White Sox player, except for Frank Thomas. The excitement that Maddux brought to Wrigley, Thomas brought the same to Comiskey Park. Thomas is a true gentlemen who played for the love of the game. Playing during the “steroid era” Thomas’s name was never brought up in allegations of using performance enhancing drugs. Thomas had an extraordinary career for White Sox, and never needed to use steroids to get an edge on the competition because he was talented enough without them. Unfortunately Thomas suffered an injury during the 2005 campaign and was unable to play for the White Sox in the World Series. As everyone remembers, the Sox went on to win the World Series (as a Cubs fan I am still jealous) for the first time since 1917. Although Thomas did not play, there is no denying the impact he had on the team and the city of Chicago. His domination on the South Side for many seasons and his extraordinary leadership was one of the major reasons the World Series made its way back to the South Side. A player like Frank Thomas makes the game of baseball special.
Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas will now be known as Hall of Famers, but to us they will always be Chicagoans.