Thurman’s entry into the major leagues was delayed by baseball’s color line. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1946 to 1948 and the Kansas City Monarchs in 1949 before being signed by the Yankees. His teammates nicknamed him “El Murcaro” (The Owl). He made the majors as an extra outfielder for the slugging Cincinnati Reds, and made half his ML appearances as a pinch hitter. In 1957 he hit four pinch homers.