- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- On the day he learned he was going to the Hall of Fame, former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas might have been asked as many questions about baseball’s steroid era as he was about his own accomplishments.
Thomas has always maintained he never used performance-enhancing substances and the Baseball Writers Association of America members who vote for the Hall of Fame appeared to concur, electing him on 83.7 percent of their ballots.
But with accused PED users like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens stuck in neutral in a bid for Hall of Fame acceptance, Thomas’ ability to be so highly honored despite playing in a questionable time brought the conversation back to steroids.
Toward the end of a long day of multiple interviews, Thomas was asked if he was sick about having to discuss baseball’s tarnished era.
“It’s getting old,” Thomas said. “I think you don’t speak for others but I can speak for myself. I’m 100 percent clean and I’m so happy and proud of that. It’s something I prided myself in because I came from an Auburn University program and there were no shortcuts. You got to the weight room at 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, basically killing yourself, or you weren’t going to get any better.
“I was taught early, I took that through my career and every year I tried to work harder and harder and harder to be the best player I possibly could be.”
Could it be that Thomas’ robust numbers while playing clean inspired others to take shortcuts in order to reach his lofty status? Thomas actually admitted Wednesday that he might have unwittingly inspired some cheaters.
“As for the others, I’ll be honest, I think I was one of those guys that made a few guys go that direction, because of the size and the strength of a football player playing baseball,” Thomas said. “For a seven-year run there, no one basically could compete. There were only one or two guys who put up numbers that could compare. But I don’t fault anyone for what they did, but hey, I did it the right way.”
Modesty wasn’t Thomas’ strong suit, but his self-confidence served him well. He aspired to be one of the best and actually was while others around him appeared to be taking shortcuts.
“I really can’t speak on what all these guys did and what they tried to accomplish,” Thomas said. “There are two people that stand out in my mind: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I faced those guys early in their careers. I know the kind of competitors they were and I know the type of players they were.
“As for what they did, I don’t think any of us will ever really know. But I can tell you, what I did was real, and that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now, because the writers, they definitely got it right.”
There is no gray area when it comes to Thomas’ beliefs about the Hall of Fame and players who have used PEDs. He said of the Hall of Famers he has talked to in the past few years, they are 100 percent unanimous in thinking PED users don’t belong in Cooperstown.
“There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame,” he said.
2hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com