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Athlete Clinton Cyrus Thomas (November 25, 1896-December 2, 1990) was a star in the Negro Leagues, during the days of racial segregation in major league baseball. Thomas settled in Charleston after his playing days and made a long career in state government.

Thomas was born in Greenup, Kentucky. He moved to Columbus, Ohio, as a teenager and joined the army when he was 18. Returning to Columbus in 1919, Thomas, who had spent his childhood playing sandlot baseball, joined a semi-pro team. The following year, he moved to New York to play for the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He joined the Lincoln Giants in 1921 and in 1922 moved to the Detroit Stars. Usually a second baseman, Thomas got the chance to play in the outfield and earned his nickname, ‘‘The Hawk,’’ for his ability to dart across center field and pounce on anything in his vicinity.

In 1923, Thomas began a six-year stint with the Philadelphia Hilldale Giants. In his first year, he led the team with 14 home runs in 100 games, batted .374, and stole 21 bases. He was a key player in Hilldale’s Eastern Colored League championship games. In 1929, Thomas began playing with the New York Black Yankees, previously the Lincoln Giants. He spoiled the 1932 unveiling of Pittsburgh’s Greenlee Field by scoring the only run and making a spectacular, game-saving catch in his team’s defeat of Satchel Paige and the hometown Pittsburgh Crawfords. Another highlight was when he hit a triple off Dizzy Dean and scored the game’s only run in a win over a team of White all-stars in an exhibition game.

An ankle injury in 1938 interrupted Thomas’s career with the Black Yankees. Attempting to return to baseball a year later, he re-injured his ankle and gave up baseball for good. In his two decades in the Negro Leagues, Thomas compiled a lifetime batting average around .350, usually hitting about 25 home runs a year.

After working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in World War II, Thomas came to Charleston at the suggestion of his brother. He began working in the capitol in 1945 as a messenger for the Department of Mines. In 1954, he became a messenger for the state Senate. Thomas was a familiar figure at the capitol until past the age of 80, when failing eyesight forced him to retire.

In 1976, his native town of Greenup, Kentucky, threw Thomas an 80th birthday party, attended by 12 friends and former Negro Leagues players, including Satchel Paige and James “Cool Papa” Bell. For several years, the event became an annual reunion for retired Negro Leaguers and gave impetus to establishing a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, later opened in Kansas City.

Clint Thomas died in Charleston.

This Article was written by Judie Smith

Last Revised on October 31, 2023

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Cite This Article

Smith, Judie "Clint Thomas." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 31 October 2023. Web. 24 May 2024.


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