|Outfielder / First baseman|
|Born: February 5, 1936|
|April 22, 1961, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 27, 1968, for the Houston Astros|
|Runs batted in||428|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Leroy "Lee" Thomas (born February 5, 1936) is an American former Major League Baseball player and front-office executive. As general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1988 to 1997, Thomas built the Phillies from a below .500 club into the 1993 champions of the National League. He most recently was special assistant to the executive vice president with the Baltimore Orioles from December 2011 through the end of the 2018 season.
In his playing days, Thomas was a powerful outfielder and first baseman who batted left-handed and threw right-handed. Originally a member of the New York Yankees organization (1954-61), he was signed by Yankees scout Lou Maguolo. But Thomas could not break into the Bombers' strong lineup despite putting up good offensive statistics in minor league baseball. He had two at bats for the 1961 Yanks (garnering one hit), then was traded to the expansion Los Angeles Angels on May 8, 1961, during the Halos' first American League season.
As an everyday player with the Angels and Boston Red Sox from 1961 to 1965, Thomas topped the 20 home run mark three times, and drove in 104 RBI for the Angels in 1962. On September 5, 1961, Thomas collected nine hits in 11 at bats in a doubleheader against the Kansas City Athletics, hitting three home runs and driving in eight runs in the nightcap. He became one of eight players with nine hits in a twin bill. He was selected to the 1962 American League All-Star team, and popped out as a pinch hitter in that year's first All-Star game, played at DC Stadium on July 10. In the year's second All-Star game, played July 30 at Wrigley Field, he appeared as a defensive replacement in left field for the game's final two innings and did not bat.
The latter three years of Thomas' Major League playing career (1966-68) were spent in the National League as a part-time player and pinch hitter with the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. He compiled a career batting average of .255 in 1,027 games played with 847 hits and 106 home runs. After his big league career, he played in Japan in 1969 for the Nankai Hawks.
In 1970, Thomas joined the St. Louis Cardinals as bullpen coach. In 1972, he became manager of the GCL Red Birds in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Then, in 1973, Thomas he moved up to Class A as skipper of the Modesto Reds of the California League. Thomas moved into the Cardinals' front office in 1975, becoming traveling secretary and rising to the position of director of player development in 1980. He was a key member of the St. Louis organization during the club's run of success during the early to mid-1980s when the Cards, led by manager Whitey Herzog, won NL pennants in 1982, 1985 and 1987 and the 1982 World Series.
In June 1988, Thomas was lured to Philadelphia to take command of the Phillies. He acquired players such as Curt Schilling, Lenny Dykstra and Mitch Williams, who played critical roles in the Phils' 1993 pennant-winning team, which lost the 1993 World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays. That same year, The Sporting News and Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America both named him Executive of the Year for all of Major League Baseball.
When four straight losing seasons followed the '93 pennant, Thomas was replaced as GM by Ed Wade, his assistant. He then returned to the Red Sox as a special assistant to the general manager from 1998 to 2003, where he played a key role in Boston's signing of free agent outfielders Manny Ramírez in December 2000 and Johnny Damon one year later. He served the Astros and the Milwaukee Brewers as a pro scout, and on December 4, 2011, he joined the Baltimore Orioles as a special assistant to executive vice president Dan Duquette with whom he worked in Boston.