It took me a while to figure out how to install VMWare tools on a linux system withot the GUI. My latest struggle was on Fedora 12. So I decided to invest more time into this to finally sort this out and it is actually quite easy...
Just follow these simple steps (or copy/paste):
#Click on Install VMWare Tools from the VMware esx3i console
yum install kernel-devel gcc gcc-c++ kernel-PAE-devel
mkdir /media/cdrom #create a mount directory (i didn't have it in my installation)
mount /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom #mount the cdrom
rpm -ivh /media/cdrom/*.rpm #install the rpm package
vmware-config-tools.pl #this cannot be run remotely. just follow it through by always pressing enter