Showing posts with label Valmy Thomas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valmy Thomas. Show all posts

Friday, November 23, 2018

How Nick Testa made a lifetime baseball career from only one major league game

Nick Testa made the most out of his one major league appearance with the 1958 San Francisco Giants, spending seven decades in the game as a player and a coach. A professional career that started in 1946 took him across the globe to far-reaching baseball venues such as Colombia, Italy, and Japan. The well-traveled baseball lifer passed away November 16, 2018, in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York. He was 90.

Nick Testa / Author's Collection
Testa’s lone major league game came on April 23, 1958, when he pinch-ran for Ray Jablonski in the 8th inning. He remained in the game as the catcher, where he was charged with an error in the 9th inning when the San Francisco winds blew a pop-up out of his reach. That error made his only mark in the record books, as he was two batters away when Daryl Spencer launched a two-run home run to cap the Giants’ comeback victory.

Shortly after his cameo, Giants manager Bill Rigney made Testa an interesting offer. With Bob Schmidt and Valmy Thomas holding down the catching duties, it was clear that Rigney did not need a third-string receiver.

“About a month into the season the other two catchers were doing so well, there was no way I was going to play,” Testa said to Steve Bitker in The Original San Francisco Giants. “So he says, ‘Would you consider being a bullpen coach the rest of the year?’ And I says, ‘Oh, sure, I’d love to.’ I was probably the youngest bullpen coach in the majors at 29.”

Testa finished the season as their bullpen coach and in 1959, he returned to the minors, where he played through 1964. During this period Testa became part of the early group of Americans to play in Japan when he spent the entire 1962 season with the Daimai Orions. 

Nick Testa 1962 Japanese Baseball Card

While Testa was no longer playing affiliated ball, it was far from the end of his time on the field. He returned home to the Bronx to work as a health and physical education instructor at Lehman College, where he piloted their baseball program to the 1974 CUNY Baseball Championship. During his summers off from teaching, Testa played in the Canadian Provincial League well into his 60s, often facing high-level competition half his age.

Testa catching at 45 in Canada /

The professor was a fixture for both of New York’s professional teams, serving as a batting practice pitcher for the Mets and the Yankees. Testa continued with the Yankees through their championship run in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2001, the Yankees tasked the 73-year-old Testa with the responsibility of preparing then-President George W. Bush for his historic first pitch at the 2001 World Series. Before Game Three, Testa patiently caught the President's warm-ups in the Yankee Stadium tunnels before he made his way to the mound.

Testa remained a pillar of physical fitness well into his 80s, serving as an exemplar for the multitudes of students he prepared for work in the field. Lehman College inducted him into their Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.

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.