A strapping, 6’3″ 200-lb slugger, Thomas hit 30 home runs in 1953, his first full ML season with his hometown Pirates, and was considered the successor of Ralph Kiner, who was traded to the Cubs that June. Thomas followed with 11 straight years with double-figure home runs, his best campaign coming in 1958 when he finished second in the NL to Ernie Banks with 35 HR and 109 RBI. That August 16, he hit three HR in a game. A dead-pull hitter who crowded the plate, he smashed more than his share of foul “home runs.” He was always willing to bet all comers he could catch their hardest throw barehanded, and he never lost. He was an All-Star outfielder in 1954-55 and was the NL’s starting third baseman in the 1958 All-Star Game.
Thomas changed teams eight times between 1959 and 1966. In 1962 he led the expansion Mets with 34 HR and 94 RBI, hitting two homers in each of three consecutive games on the first three days in August. The closest he came to playing for a pennant winner was 1964; that August the Mets traded him to the Phillies, who appeared headed for a championship. But Thomas broke his right thumb in early September, and was ineffective upon his return. The Phillies, meanwhile, made their famous fade into second place. On July 3, 1965 he got into a fight with slugger Richie Allen. Despite hitting a pinch homer in the game, he was immediately placed on waivers.