Saturday, October 23, 2010

Valmy Thomas | First MLB player from the Virgin Islands dies at 84

Former New York Giants catcher and legend from the U.S. Virgin Islands Valmy Thomas passed away October 16 at his home in St. Croix at the age of 84.

Thomas made his debut for the New York Giants in 1957 and played five seasons for the Giants, Phillies, Orioles and Indians. As with many players of his era, Thomas shaved a few years off of his age to make him more palatable to scouts.

Born October 21, 1925, Thomas family quickly relocated to the Virgin Islands. Even though Thomas was born in Puerto Rico, he is widely considered to be the first player from the Virgin Island to play in the majors. He returned to St. Croix after his career ended to become a successful businessman as owner of United Sporting Goods in Watergut, St. Croix. He also served as an assistant commissioner of the former Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs, where he oversaw recreation programs for hundreds of young sportsmen and women in the territory.

Thomas gained prominence in Puerto Rico where he earned the Rookie of the Year honors for the 1950-51 season for the Santurce Crabbers. He would later play on the Caribbean Series champion 1954-55 Santurce team, a team which many argue was the best winter league team ever assembled. The Crabbers of that season included budding major league and Negro League players Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, George Crowe, Buster Clarkson, Bob Thurman, Don Zimmer, Ronnie Sanford, Ruben Gomez, Sam Jones and Bill Greason.


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