#94 - Lee Thomas, OF, 1B
Another early `60s Angel that I only heard about on broadcasts. It was the sadistic Ron Fairly broadcasting for us who would giggle "this should remind Angel fans of the Mad Dog, Lee Thomas" any time a player took umbrage with an inside pitch. When your anger outshines your career stats, it is usually a bad sign, although Fairly's gross incompetence behind the microphone has obliterated his above-average years on the diamond for sure. Meanwhile a perusal of Thomas' accomplishments with the Angels certainly warrants a Top 100 listing.
And Rob McMillin finds plenty of Mad anecdotal evidence:
Almost an original Angel, outfielder/first baseman Lee Thomas started his career with Los Angeles just a month after the season started, in May 1961, when he was traded from the Yanks along with reliever Johnny James (whose career was cut short after he broke his arm that year) and reliever Ryne Duren for Tex Clevenger and the former All Star, outfielder Bob Cerv.
Thomas earned the nickname "Mad Dog" because of his often-violent temper. Once, playing golf with a sportswriter, he pitched a driver through a chain link fence. Together with George Thomas, another midseason acquisition purchased from the minor leagues of the Tigers, they formed a power duet known as TN'T, collectively clubbing 37 homers for a 1961 Angels team that won 70 games, a record for an expansion team that still stands.
An All-Star in 1962 when he clubbed a career-high 26 homers while driving in 104 RBIs and batting .290, Lee Thomas had arguably the best game of his career in the second game of a double header on September 5, 1961 against the wretched Kansas City Athletics. Thomas hit a pair of homers, and went 4-6 with eight RBIs in a 13-12 loss. In the top of that doubleheader, Thomas went 5-5 in a 7-3 losing effort, equaling a then-major league record for number of hits in a double header, and tying the American League record for total bases in a double header. Thomas tied another major league record in 1963 during an August 23 game against the Washington Senators, when he participated in an incredible six double plays from first base.
His Angels career ended after he suffered through an abysmal 1963 season that saw his average plummet 70 points to .220, and again in 1964 when he had a .208 April; after a .259 May, the Angels moved him to Boston, where he hit 13 homers, and another 22 in 1965. It would be his last good year, as he would bounce around Atlanta, the Cubs, and the Astros before retiring in 1968.
Rob reports on the Angels and the other Los Angeles baseball team at his 6-4-2 Baseball Blog now playing on the internet.