Thornton gave his induction speech before a packed house at The Jake, as the Indians were hosting the Yankees, who give the turnstiles a jolt in every city they play. The situation was no different in the 1970s and '80s, when Thornton was playing in cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
"That was the only time we really had people in the stands," Thornton told reporters a day before his induction.
Actually, Thornton was only half-right on that claim. The Indians also packed them in for Opening Day back in the day.
Thornton, who turns 58 on Monday, still lives in northeast Ohio and is CEO and chairman of ASW Global, a supply chain management company in Akron. When he looks back on his 10 seasons with the Tribe, from 1977 to '87, the Opening Day memories are what stick out.
"They were special," he said. "Because in Cleveland at that time, we were always vying to be the largest crowd on Opening Day. That was our claim to fame at that time. It wasn't winning championships or playing in playoff games."
Thornton never let the losing get him down. The man known as "Thunder" was a two-time All-Star who hit 214 homers and 419 extra-base hits while driving in 749 RBIs in a Tribe uniform. He hit for the cycle in Fenway Park on April 22, 1978.
He put up all those numbers despite having limited protection around him in the Indians' lineup. He consistently performed well for a team that consistently performed poorly.
"Every year, you knew it was going to be a tough year," he said. "Either we didn't have the money to have the players, or we had pitching and no hitting or hitting and no pitching. But we never had the full complement of talent to win. And we knew we would probably never get it. That was probably the most disappointing thing. We didn't have the resources to be able to compete."
Nagy, who made his debut with the Tribe in 1990, was thrust into a similar situation. But in his salad days as a big leaguer, the standings and the club's economic situation hardly mattered to him.
"I was enjoying every minute of it," he said.
But Nagy had quite a bit more to enjoy when the Indians moved to Jacobs Field in 1994. The renaissance that came with that move included six American League Central Division titles in seven years and two World Series appearances.
Nagy was around for it all, and his accomplishments -- which included a 129-103 record in 13 seasons with the Indians and three All-Star appearances -- were an instrumental part of the club's success.
"It was a joy," he said, "to be here and come to the park every day to sellout crowds and watch Albert [Belle] hit home runs and watch Omar [Vizquel] turn double plays."
A joy and an inspiration.
"I pushed myself to be around to see it all," Nagy said. "It's a tough game and a tough business. It takes a lot of hard work to get to the big leagues. And it takes twice as much to stay here. I tried to follow the examples of Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez. I tried to keep my eyes on them. Whatever they were doing, I was going to try to do."
Today, the 40-year-old Nagy is passing those lessons down to a new generation. He's the pitching coach for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in the Angels' farm system.
"It's time consuming," he said of the job. "You find out right away that when you play all you really have to do is worry about yourself and what you're going to do to get ready for that game. Now, I have to worry about 12 or 13 guys and what they're doing and how they're feeling."
Both Nagy and Thornton were feeling good about their induction into the Indians' prestigious group, which now has 31 members.
"I'm surprised I'm coming to this group," Thornton said, "but it's a thrill."
He and Nagy might have played in very different eras of Indians baseball. But on this day, they were sharing that feeling.