Dave "Showboat" Thomas


"Behind Matlock was the sweetest fielding team seen in Denver for years. At every position the Negroes have a defensive star, with the most luminous being Patterson on third and Thomas on first. The 'Showboat' danced around the bag and scooped throws as though he were doing it to music."


--Denver Post Newspaper, 1937



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Negro Leaguer of the Month
February, 2001

Dave "Showboat" Thomas
Position:
First Base
Career:
1928-1946
Teams:
Atlanta Black Crackers, Birmingham Black Barons, Brookyln Royal Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, New York Cubans, New York Black Yankees, Washington Black Senators, Ethiopian Clowns, Santa Domingo (D.R.)

HT: 6'-0"; WT:
180 lbs
Batted:
left, Threw: left
Born:
March 22, 1905 in Mobile, Alabama
Died: ?

As the nickname suggests, Dave Thomas was a fancy-fielding first baseman. He was regarded by some as the best fielding first baseman the Negro Leagues ever produced. He covered tons of ground and ate up everything in his general direction, and one newspapers desribed him as "loose-jointed" because of his athleticism around first base.


Thomas was one of the many Negro League stars to come out of Mobile, Alabama (Double Duty and Alec Radcliffe, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, Bobbie Robinson).

Thomas played semipro ball in the South before landing a job with the 1929 Birmingham Black Barons, featuring a young Satchel Paige. Thomas batted over .250 with 10 doubles and six homers in under 250 league play at bats, a pace that would give him about 25 doubles and 14 homers in a full Major League season.

Though large of stature, Showboat was not a home run hitter but usually hit in the second or third slot in the order and always hit well in the clutch

After a few seasons with the Baltimore Black Sox, Thomas played several years out of New York, first with the New York Black Yankees, and later with the New York Cubans.

Thomas played with a Negro League All-Star team that won the Denver Post Tournament in 1937, the top semipro tournament in the country. He batted .355 in the eight games.

Four years later, Thomas was player-manager for the Ethiopian Clowns and he again led his team to victory. The Clowns were down by four runs in the 9th, then scored 6 runs to win the game and tournament. Thomas made the All-Tourney All-Star team and won a wrist watch despite batting only .242. His incredible play in the field, and a well-timed home run proved every so valuable.

During a ceremony after the game, Showboat accepted his team's winning share of $4,729.66. The master of ceremonies thanked Thomas, "Showboat, I want to tell you that the folk in this town think your boys are swell. Not only are you great ballplayers but we, who have dealt with you thru this tournament, know you as gentlemen and sportsmen. You boys, Showboat, are a credit to your race."

Showboat replied, "Thank you, and I want to say that means as much as does our winning the tournament."

In 1942, Thomas and pitcher Terris McDuffie were given tryouts with the Brooklyn Dodgers. They both performed well at the tryout but were not signed--most think the tryout was more for show, and both players were well into their 30s (Showboat was 37), much too old to be prospects.

Thomas went out with a bang, batting .393 in 1946 with the New York Cubans, his last year in the Negro Leagues.

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