COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- At a party on the eve of Frank Thomas' induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his mother made a not-so-bold prediction by telling her son: "I know you're going to cry as soon as you mention your dad's name."
Thomas tried hard to avoid it, practicing his Hall of Fame speech over and over again until he could sail through it without a drop.
But Sunday, Thomas broke down just like mama said. In a gloriously emotional speech, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder had no chance at fighting back tears at the mention of his late father.
"Frank Sr., I know you're watching and smiling," Thomas told the crowd, choking out his words. "Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn't be here in Cooperstown today. Thanks for pushing me, and always preaching to me, 'You can be someone special if you really work at it.' I took that to heart, Pops. Look at us today."
Thomas wore his heart on his sleeve for the duration of his speech, stealing the show on a day in which his five fellow inductees managed to keep things in check. The Big Hurt, who looked so fearsome during his playing days, struggled from start to finish and frequently dabbed at tears.
"We're a long way from Columbus, Georgia. Mom, thanks for hanging in there and believing in the same vision," Thomas said to his mother, Charlie Mae, who was in the crowd after having not left that city for 15 years. "I know that wasn't easy, but I thank you for all the love and support. Raising all of us was tough, but you and dad made sure we made it."
The Big Hurt built a career around power, joining Babe Ruth, Mel Ott and Ted Williams as the only players to have a career average of at least .300 with 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs scored and 1,500 walks.
He racked up another impressive total Sunday, mentioning more than 130 players during his speech. "Believe it or not, I cut 50 guys," Thomas said after leaving the stage. "I felt bad. If it was up to me, I would have kept them in."
Thomas' long list of thanks included many nods to Oakland, where he played in 2006 and 2008. His shout-outs ranged from general manager Billy Beane to clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich to such teammates as Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher, Bobby Kielty, Marco Scutaro, Barry Zito and many more.
"Those two seasons at the Coliseum were magical," Thomas said. "Without it, I doubt I would be speaking here today."
"I'm truly humbled to stand here before you," Cox said. "To Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and I have to mention the third member of the big three -- John Smoltz -- I can honestly say I would not be standing here if it weren't for you guys."
Glavine started when the Braves won Game 6 to clinch the 1995 World Series, pitching one-hit ball over eight innings in a 1-0 victory over Cleveland. And the slender lefty was one of those rare athletes, drafted by the Braves and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.
"I had a difficult choice to make, and as a left-handed pitcher I thought that was the thing that would set me apart and make baseball the smartest decision," Glavine said. "Of course, I always wondered what would have happened had I taken up hockey."
Maddux went 355-227 with a career ERA of 3.16 in 23 seasons with the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Dodgers and ranks eighth on the career wins list. He won four straight Cy Young Awards in the 1990s and won 15 or more games for 17 straight seasons with his pinpoint control.
"I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta, and both places are very special," Maddux said. "Without the experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today."
Former Giants pitching coach Dick Pole was among the people thanked by Maddux, who said Pole refined his delivery and taught him the basics of pitch selection in the Cubs system.
"Baseball is a game of life. It's not perfect, but it feels like it is," said the 74-year-old Torre, who apologized afterward for forgetting to include the Steinbrenner family in his speech. "That's the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves. Our sport is part of the American soul, and it's ours to borrow -- just for a while."
The Giants said a scheduling conflict prevented Mays from making the trip to the East Coast this year. Mario Alioto, a Giants senior vice president who is close to Mays, wrote in an email that "Willie always enjoys attending the Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown and had originally planned to be there this weekend."
Instead, Mays has been attending Giants-Dodgers games at AT&T Park.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.