Born December 26, 1923 in Windsor, Ont., Thomas was a gifted basketball, football and baseball player. He suited up for the Detroit Senators, a black barnstorming outfit, in 1947 and then with the Farnham Pirates in 1948 in the Quebec Provincial League. In 1948, Cleveland owner Bill Veeck commissioned Abe Saperstein, famed for his oversight of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, to recommend black players for Cleveland’s farm system. Thomas was the first player signed, and he integrated the Eastern League when he took the field for Cleveland’s Wilkes-Barre Barons farm team in 1948. He returned to the Provincial League in 1949 but divided his attention between baseball and basketball. Thomas later starred as a slugging outfielder in Ontario’s Intercounty Baseball League in the early 1950s. He passed away May 20, 1981 in Windsor, Ont.
Photo courtesy of the Windsor Star.