This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Though slightly obscured to history in the shadows of Hall of Fame Milwaukee Brewers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, the career of “Stomin’” Gorman Thomas should be remembered for the period of greatness he had alongside two of the best players of all time. As it stands, Gorman Thomas is among the best players in Milwaukee Brewers history. He ranks in the top ten in several offensive categories for the Milwaukee Brewers, including home runs, runs batted in, walks, OPS, among others.
The center fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s celebrates his 60th birthday on December 12th. Born in 1950, Thomas was the 21st pick in the first round of the 1969 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Seattle Pilots, which became the Milwaukee Brewers following a disastrous debut season and subsequent bankruptcy and move to Milwaukee for the start of the 1970 season. He wouldn’t arrive in Milwaukee until the 1973 season and it wasn’t until 1978 that Gorman Thomas reached the majors for good. At one point his career nearly began in Texas rather than Milwaukee. Included in a trade to the Texas Rangers in October of 1977, the Brewers purchased Thomas’ from the Rangers in February of 1978.
Though he switched teams on paper briefly, je was tormenting minor league pitching along the way wherever he played, slugging 169 home runs in seven minor league seasons, including 51 in AAA with the Sacramento Solons. When handed the responsibilities of roaming center field for the Brewers, Thomas responded immediately with 32 home runs in his first season as an every day player. In eleven seasons with the Brewers, he slugged 208 home runs, which at retirement ranked him number one for the franchise lead, and still ranks him third all time in franchise history.
Jerry Izenberg wrote an article about Gorman Thomas’ rise to stardom following his 1978 season, in a June 1979 issue of Baseball Digest. Click here to read it!
In addition to having a penchant for slugging long home runs, the fan favorite also racked up a number of strikeouts. Despite leading the league twice in Ks, he also earned himself a trip to the All-Star Game in 1981. That season also featured Thomas’ first trip to the postseason where he racked up nine strikeouts, but also slugged a home run in a losing effort against the New York Yankees, who went on to reach the World Series but lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A year later, Thomas and the Brewers were back in the postseason, this time pushing their way into the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Thomas had just four hits in over forty at bats as the Brewers lost in seven games.
Despite being a key part of the Milwaukee lineup, the organization opted to include him in a trade to the Cleveland Indians that sent Rick Manning to the Brewers. The trade was unpopular in fans eyes, but proved to be a turning point in Gorman Thomas’ career. He hit 17 home runs the rest of the way with the 1983 Indians, but was traded once again in the off-season to the Seattle Mariners.
After a dreadful 1984 season during which he appeared in just 35 games, he won Comeback Player of The Year honors when he hit 32 home runs with the Seattle Mariners in 1985. The comeback proved to be short, as the team released him in June of 1986, ushering in a return to the Milwaukee Brewers to conclude the season and put the finishing touches on his career.
Today, Milwaukee Brewers fans can find “Stormin’” Gorman Thomas welcoming fans into Gorman’s Grill at Miller Park, and working with the team at community events.
Also celebrating a birthday today:
Garrett Atkins, born on December 12, 1979, played 7 seasons with the Colorado Rockies before moving on to the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. The had a huge Home/Away batting split of .321/.252 due to Coors Field, but his home run numbers did not reveal a benefit, hitting 49 at home and 50 on the road during his career.
Steve Farr, born in 1956, played in eleven seasons with four teams, most notably the Kansas City Royals. A closer by trade, he notched 126 saves during his career and was a member of the 1985 World Champion Royals.
Ralph Garr, born in 1945, played 13 seasons in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels. He won the 1974 National League batting title while with the Braves.