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December 12, 1950 |
Charleston, South Carolina
|April 6, 1973, for the Milwaukee Brewers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 5, 1986, for the Milwaukee Brewers|
|Runs batted in||782|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Gorman Thomas III (born December 12, 1950) is an American former professional baseball player. He played Major League Baseball (MLB) as a center fielder and right-handed hitter. Thomas played in the American League (AL) with the Milwaukee Brewers (1973–76, 1978–83, 1986), Cleveland Indians (1983) and Seattle Mariners (1984–86).
With the Brewers, Thomas was one of the franchise's most popular players. He was a leading home run hitter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, though he hit for a low batting average and frequently struck out. Thomas had good fielding skills and his throwing arm was strong until shoulder surgery in 1984, after which he became a designated hitter until his retirement in 1986.
Thomas was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Gorman Sr, was a postal worker and a former minor league pitcher. Thomas was raised in nearby James Island. He attended James Island High School. In high school, Thomas earned 14 letters in four sports - baseball, football, basketball and track. He was the first draft pick of the Seattle Pilots in 1969.
In 1971, Thomas played Class A baseball in the Milwaukee system. With the Danville Warriors that year, Thomas led the Midwest League in both home runs and strikeouts. The next year with the Class AA San Antonio Brewers, Thomas led the Texas League in the same two categories, registering 26 home runs versus 171 strikeouts.
Thomas spent parts of 1973 and 1974 in the major leagues with the Brewers, but he mostly played Class AAA baseball during those seasons. With the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League in 1974, Thomas finished second in the league in home runs (51), third in RBI (122), fourth in walks (93), third in runs scored (117) and first in strikeouts (175). He spent most of the next two years on the bench with the Brewers, but he enjoyed being teammates with Hank Aaron during Aaron's last two MLB seasons.
Thomas played in Class AAA for the entire 1977 season. After the season, Thomas was traded to the Texas Rangers as the player to be named later in an earlier trade for Ed Kirkpatrick. Rangers executive Dan O'Brien Sr. explained the move as a temporary "friendship deal". Brewers general manager Harry Dalton needed to open up a roster spot over the winter, and he asked O'Brien to hold Thomas on the Texas roster for a few months. In February 1978, O'Brien sold Thomas back to Milwaukee before he appeared in any games with the Rangers.
Becoming an everyday center fielder for the Brewers in 1978, Thomas hit 32 home runs to go along with 86 RBI. In 1979, Thomas enjoyed his best MLB season, compiling career high numbers in home runs (45, first in the AL), RBI (123), runs scored (97), hits (136), doubles (29), walks (98), on-base percentage (.356), total bases (300), slugging percentage (.539) and OPS (.895). He finished seventh in MVP Award voting. Thomas was affectionately known as "Stormin' Gorman."
In 1980, Thomas had another productive season, hitting 38 home runs to go along with 105 RBI, while playing in every game. Gorman followed that up in 1981 by finishing second in the AL in home runs with 21 and being named to the AL All-Star Team. He finished eighth in MVP Award voting that year. In 1982, Thomas hit an AL-high 39 home runs (tying with Reggie Jackson for the league lead) and drove in 112 runs to help the Brewers win the American League Championship and face the Cardinals in the World Series. The Brewers lost to the Cardinals in seven games, with Thomas striking out against Bruce Sutter to end the Series.
Trade to the Indians
In June 1983, Thomas, Jamie Easterly, and Ernie Camacho were traded to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Rick Manning and Rick Waits. Thomas's play had declined late in the 1982 season; he hit .181 after September 1, and he had only four hits in more than 40 at bats in the 1982 postseason. After the announcement of the trade, angry Brewers fans flooded the team's switchboard with phone calls criticizing the transaction. 
After the 1983 season, Thomas expressed his desire for another trade, saying that he did not feel comfortable playing in Cleveland. Thomas had hit more home runs during the period from 1978 to 1983 than any other player in the AL (197).
Traded to the Seattle Mariners for the 1984 season, Thomas played in only 53 games for the team that year before he underwent season-ending rotator cuff surgery in June. In spring training before the 1985 season, Thomas had some difficulty with the timing of his swing, but he was able to swing without pain and he was looking forward to assuming Seattle's designated hitter role. Thomas was selected as The Sporting News AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1985, hitting 32 home runs and 87 RBI. However, Thomas - normally a practical joker - began to feel alienated from his teammates. At a team tenth anniversary party, Thomas was left out of a 1985 Brewers highlight video. Mariners executives said they tried to trade him away but that there was minimal interest in Thomas because of his age and his limitation to the designated hitter role.
After Dick Williams took over as the manager in Seattle toward the beginning of the 1986 season, Thomas saw decreased playing time. By late June, he was hitting .192 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI, and the team decided to release him. Thomas was making $650,000 that season and Mariners owner George Argyros had to absorb the loss of $361,000 that was still owed to Thomas under that contract. Thomas contemplated retirement, and he turned down a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers, but he signed with the Brewers a couple of weeks later to fill a designated hitter and pinch hitter role.
Thomas retired after the 1986 season. He was a career .225 hitter with 268 home runs and 782 RBI in 1435 games.
In retirement, Thomas played amateur golf and he spent time hunting and carving duck decoys. In the early 1990s, he collected limited-edition prints and considered opening an art gallery. Thomas works under a personal services contract with the Brewers to make appearances in the community and welcome visitors to Gorman's Grill at Miller Park. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
- List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual home run leaders
- La Russa, Tony; Dennis Purdy (2006). The Team-By-Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. Workman Publishing. pp. 606–. ISBN 9780981792910. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Holtzman, Jerome (July 4, 1985). "Thomas is still indomitable". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Stormin' Thomas reconnects with Lowcountry roots, Citadel baseball". WCIV. February 18, 2013. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Gorman Thomas". Wisconsin Center. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "1971 Midwest League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "1972 Texas League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "1974 Pacific Coast League Batting Leaders". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- Newberg, Jamey (August 16, 2007). "Swapping Stories: The Gorman Thomas trades of 1977 and 1978". MLB.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Gorman Thomas". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- Gorman Thomas deal upsets Brewers fans
- Gorman Thomas dealt to Tribe
- "Indians' Thomas says he wants to be traded". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. October 27, 1983. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- Cour, Jim (April 8, 1985). "Gorman is stormin' back for Mariners". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Thomas, Reuschel honored as year's comeback players". The Courier. November 20, 1985. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- Wojciechowski, Gene (April 14, 1986). "Stormin' Gorman: Playing in Seattle has its moments, but Milwaukee is his kind of town, Thomas believes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Mariners' Thomas swept from roster". Boca Raton News. Associated Press. June 26, 1986. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Thomas may retire". Lewiston Daily Sun. Associated Press. July 3, 1986. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- "Briefs". Spokane Chronicle. July 16, 1986. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
- Derrick, Mel (August 3, 1991). "Trivia answer Gorman Thomas cooks up life after retirement". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 18, 2016.