Dr. Charles Thomas-Catcher

Most of us know the Branch Rickey story about the black catcher who couldn’t get a room in South Bend, Indiana. Rickey credited the event and the player with making Rickey determined to integrate Major League Baseball. So who’s this guy that led us to Jackie Robinson? Meet Dr. Charles Thomas, dentist and sometime catcher.

Charles Thomas was born in Weston, West Virginia in 1881. In 1884 his family moved to Ohio where Thomas grew up. In high school he was a star player and in 1904 began attending Ohio Wesleyian University, where they had a baseball team managed by Branch Rickey. Thomas became the team’s primary catcher, playing an occasional game at first or in center field. He hit 321 for a career. That number is the best research can find on him. I wouldn’t want to bet the farm on its accuracy. No other stats seem to be available.

After leaving college he played for few years starting in 1916 for he Baltimore Black Sox. But, like Field of Dreams character Moonlight Graham, his calling was in medicine, specifically dentistry. He became a qualified dentist and practiced a number of places before settling in Albequerque, New Mexico where he practiced 40 years. He remained in contact with Rickey but seems to have played no part in the signing of Jackie Robinson other than being informed by Rickey. Charles Thomas died in 1971.

I was surprised how little was known about Thomas, considering how famous the South Bend incident has become over the years. He seems to have dropped into the obscurity in which most of us live our lives. It’s nice to take a moment and remember him. We all owe him a lot.

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One Response to “Dr. Charles Thomas-Catcher”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Nice little story. It reminds us that anyone and everyone can make a difference, even if unintentionally. Not everyone is called to be a Jackie Robinson. Thanks for sharing, Bill

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