The Phillies announced this afternoon that former major league player and general manager Lee Thomas has passed away. He was 87 years old.
A St. Louis native, Thomas began his professional career shortly after graduating high school in 1954. He spent seven years climbing through the Yankees farm system and got his first cup of coffee on New York’s 1961 team that wound up winning the World Series. Thomas wasn’t with the club by that point, as the Yankees traded the left-handed hitter to the expansion Angels a few weeks into the ’61 season. Thomas played in 130 games as a rookie, putting up an impressive .284/.353/.491 line. He tied for third in AL Rookie of the Year balloting, and his impressive showing earned him a regular spot between the Halos corner outfield and first base for the next few seasons.
Thomas posted arguably the best year of his career in 1962, blasting 26 homers and plating 104 runs with a .290/.355/.467 slash line. He played in 160 games, earned a spot in the All-Star Game and finished 11th in AL MVP balloting. Thomas’ production dipped the following season, however, and he settled in as a journeyman by the 1964 campaign. He played for five teams — Angels, Red Sox, Braves, Astros and Cubs — through the end of his playing days in 1968. Over parts of eight seasons, Thomas compiled a .255/.327/.397 line with 106 round-trippers and 428 RBI.
An eight-year playing career that featured an All-Star appearance and some early-career award support would’ve been impressive enough on its own, but Thomas’ influence on the game extended well beyond his on-field days. He transitioned into coaching in the minors and eventually moved into front office work with the Cardinals. He was part of the St. Louis front office during their 1982 championship season, and he got an opportunity to run his own baseball operations department when he was hired by the Phillies as vice president of player personnel in June 1988.
Thomas would lead the Phils baseball ops for almost a decade. His front office put together a roster that won 97 games and advanced to the World Series in 1993, eventually dropping the six-game set in Toronto capped off by Joe Carter’s championship-winning home run. Thomas remained Philadelphia GM until he was replaced by Ed Wade in 1997. He’d go on to spend time with the Red Sox, Astros, Brewers and Orioles this century, holding a special assistant position in Baltimore as recently as 2018. All told, Thomas’ career in the industry spanned parts of seven decades.
MLBTR sends our condolences to his family, friends and former colleagues throughout the game.
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