Columbus High's Frank Thomas enters Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 22, 2014 

MACON, Ga. -- Frank Thomas now has a Hall of Fame grand slam.

Saturday night, the former Columbus High School and Auburn University star who gained fame as a slugger for the Chicago White Sox was among the class inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

He has previously been enshrined in the state sports halls in Illinois and Alabama and the Chattahoochee Valley. Thomas was a first-ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame last month. He will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., July 27.

Not bad for a guy who started his baseball career at Peach Little League in Lakebottom Park.

Thomas said it was special going into the Georgia Hall of Fame with his former high school coach Bobby Howard in the crowd.

"To be honest that area taught me something and Coach Howard had a lot to do with that," Thomas said. "I grew up in an era where Columbus High had some good athletes and started to turn things around."

Thomas, who now lives in the Chicago area, said it was good to be back in his home state.

"This is the springboard of my career," Thomas said. "This is my home state and it all started here for me."

Going into the Hall on Saturday night with Thomas were former Warner Robins High and Auburn University star James Brooks, former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, former Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice, former LPGA player Hollis Stacy, former Thomasville High School and Colquitt High School football coach Jim Hughes, former Elbert County High School and Georgia Teachers College basketball legend Chester Webb and former University of Georgia and NFL football player Scott Woerner.

Thomas' mother, Charlie Mae, was not able to make the trip from Columbus to Macon because of health issues, Thomas said. His father, the driving force in his life, died in 2001.

"He pushed me," Frank said of Frank Thomas Sr. "He was always there and I was lost after the first year my father passed. I know he is there with me. I know he's very proud. I am lucky he got to see the best of my career."

Thomas said his father would have enjoyed seeing him recognized.

"He would have been here smiling ear to ear," Thomas said.

Howard was smiling as his former player was honored among Georgia's greatest sports figures.

"This is something that Frank earned," Howard said.

And he started earning it at Columbus High.

As the cleanup hitter and sophomore first baseman, he led Columbus High to a 1984 Georgia High School Association state title, the first of 12 for Howard as a coach. Thomas' senior year, Columbus High lost in the state final. Thomas was also a high school football star and signed a football scholarship with Auburn, where he was a two-sport athlete before concentrating on baseball.

After his junior year, the Chicago White Sox drafted him with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1989 draft.

Thomas played 16 of his 19 seasons with the White Sox and was named the American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and 1994. A five-time all-star, Thomas retired in 2008 with 521 home runs, a .301 batting average and 1,704 RBIs.

He is now training for a new job. Thomas is expected to join Fox Sports 1 when the baseball season begins next month. He will be a studio analyst on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, he said. He has done television work for the White Sox the last three seasons.

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