Can St. Louis Cardinals fans put their minds at ease?
You have to like the Cardinals chances of clinching the second wild card spot.
The breaks seem to finally going the club’s way: at last.
Take last night’s 5-0 win over Houston, for instance.
Yadier Molina and David Freese each hit their 20th home run on the season, joining teammates Alan Craig, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday who achieved the feat earlier.
The Los Angeles Dodgers could be fading fast even though they swept a doubleheader last night.
The Milwaukee Brewers could be a threat. But come on, it’s Milwaukee.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are sinking fast.
Why the sudden turnaround for the Cardinals? Jason Motte.
And how about Molina? He continues to swing a hot bat and throw runners out at will. Molina is a legitimate MVP candidate. But will likely not get the award.
By Mark Hodapp
No one was more haunted than East Carondelet’s
And now 30 years later, his tragic story remains
hard to believe.
A top Milwaukee Brewers baseball prospect,
Thomas suffered a nervous breakdown and turned
for salvation to the Worldwide Church of God.
He announced at spring training in 1977 that he
would not play on the Sabbath, from sundown Friday
to sundown Saturday, in observance of the
church’s holy day. “The Sundown Kid,” as he
came to be called, played in only 54 major league
baseball games with the Brewers before his professional career ended in 1977.
His life was a tragedy from
his deprived boyhood days in
Prichard, Ala., through his brief,
stormy baseball career with the
Brewers, to his arrest on June 1,
1980, on charges of allegedly
raping a 12-year-old girl.
Less than two weeks later, he
took his own life in the Mobile,
Ala. city jail on June 12, 1980.
“His tale was Horatio Alger
but written by Edgar Allen Poe,”
the Lawrence Journal-Word reported
in its Aug. 24, 1980 issue.
Ginger Patterson told the
newspaper, “He once told his
wife, Judy, ‘I wish I had cancer,
then at least people would realize
what was the matter with
The Pattersons took the
Thomases in when they came to
Born in Birmingham, Ala.,
Thomas moved with his family
to Mobile as a child.
When he was growing up in
Mobile, Dan thought his mother
was a religious fanatic because
she kept bouncing from one
church to another.
“We were Baptists one day,
Catholics another and Methodists
the next,” Thomas told
“I didn’t take any religion
East Carondelet days
The Thomases stayed in
Mobile until Dan was a teenager,
then moved to East Carondelet, Ill.,
on Adams Road.
Adams Road is one of the
poorest areas of East Carondelet.
Dan Thomas attended Dupo
High School for two years, but
played on the Tigers baseball,
basketball, football and track
teams during just his junior season.
He was ineligible to play his
Joe Haven was a close friend
with the Thomases. He remembers
having many “simple
meals” at the Thomas home.
Haven also remembers idolizing
Dan, who was a couple
years older, and looking up to
him as a “God-like figure.”
“He was like the big brother
I never had,” Haven said. “He
was like the coolest thing. He
played minor league baseball
and I loved baseball. It couldn’t
get much better than that.”
He described Thomas as
being intense and confident.
Haven remembers Dan and
his wife, the former Judy Baker,
visiting him and his wife after
he became a major leaguer. Judy,
who was a year younger
than Dan, was the 1971 valedictorian
at Dupo High School.
“But there we were, sitting in
my little living room in my
apartment,” he said.
Haven remembers Thomas
having good baseball skills and
being self confident. He was
But Haven believes Thomas’
intensity might have led to his
downfall when he started to
self-doubt his baseball ability.
He also remembers Dan’s
dad being tough on him earlier.
While he didn’t attend many of
his son’s games, he wanted his
son to excel, Haven recalled.
“I believe that’s why he was
looking into that religion,” Haven
said. “He may had some self doubt
and was looking for answers
to other things in life and
Haven recalled when Thomas
came to Dupo, Ill., he was treated
as an “outsider” by some of his
“Dan was not the type of
guy, who said one thing and did
the other,” Haven said.
“He was a straight shooter,
whether you liked it or not. If
he didn’t like what you’d say,
he’d walk away or punch you in
Haven has only fond memories
about his high school
“I have never seen another
athlete — at least at Dupo High
School — like him,” he said.
Tryout with the Pilots
Former Dupo High School
physical education and driver’s
education teacher Bob Mason
fondly recalls taking Thomas to
a Seattle Pilots baseball tryout
camp in Springfield, Ill.
“He could run with anyone
there,” Mason said.
But Thomas, who played left
field with the Brewers and first
base in college, had a hard time
making long throws from shortstop
at the tryout camp, which
also had scouts from the Reds
and Pirates in attendance, Mason
The Seattle Pilots joined the
American League in 1969, but
by the next opening day, they
had been reborn as the Milwaukee
Brewers. The Pilots were
also an oddity because they
were the only Major League
Baseball team in memory to
move after just a single season.
Thomas was not offered a
contract from the Pilots. Mason
later found out Thomas was
Itchy Jones, the legendary
coach at Southern Illinois University
at Carbondale, watched
Thomas’ tryout from left field.
Thomas later played baseball
at SIUC for two seasons under
In June 1971, Thomas played
in the College World Series,
when SIUC advanced to the final
game, losing the national
championship to the University
of Southern California 7-2 on
Thomas ranks eighth in career
stolen bases at SIUC with
55 in two years.
Brewers draft Thomas
Thomas was picked sixth
overall in the 1972 amateur
draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.
He momentarily became a
national figure with the Brewers
in 1977 when his religion and
career came into conflict and
spilled over the nation’s sports
Thomas was called up to the
big leagues by the Brewers late
in 1976 after he won the Triple
Crown in the Eastern League,
where he hit .325 with 83 RBIs,
29 home runs and a .986 fielding
percentage. His accomplishment
would not be equalled
again in the minor leagues until
Lou Montanez garnered the triple
crown in 2008.
In October 1976, the pressure
of competition resulted in a
After an alleged suicide attempt,
he committed himself to
an undisclosed mental hospital
near St. Louis. At the end of his
five-month stay, he asked to see
a worldwide church minister,
according to published reports.
He became a convert, and a
week later was released from
By spring training 1977, he
was back with the Brewers.
Thomas started the 1977 season
with the Brewers, but was
sent down to Milwaukee’s Spokane
Indians in May, eventually
with an ultimatum to play fulltime
or be suspended.
“It’s like they’re asking me,
`Do you want to stay in the minor
leagues the rest of your life?
Conform or get out,”’ Thomas
He was sent to Spokane,
Wash., where he continued to
struggle. The Brewers tried to
send him to Double-A Holyoke.
Thomas refused to report.
The next year, he won a
Northwest League batting title
for an independent Boise team.
Thomas also played with the
Waterloo Buds for one season
in the Mon-Clair League under
legendary coach Vern Moehrs.
Moehrs declined to comment
Local baseball historian Rich
Fisher recalled Thomas as being
a quiet player who didn’t like to
do things with his teammates
after their games.
“And nobody could figure
him out,” he said.
“But, boy could he play
The Sundown Kid
Thomas became a national
figure after he missed a Saturday,
April 23, 1977 game with
“The Sundown Kid,” as he
was later referred to, was slated
to be in the lineup as a cleanup
hitter and left fielder.
People magazine and The
Sporting News were among the
many news outlets that wrote
feature articles about Thomas
and his beliefs.
“To baseball bench jockeys,
nothing is sacred,” Tim Woodward
stated in his Aug. 1, 1977
People article about Thomas.
“To left fielder Danny Thomas,
26, everything is. So, it
didn’t take long for opposing
dugouts to switch their attack
from his name to his religion.”
Thomas told the magazine:
“If I’m good at baseball, it’s
only because God gave me the
talent. I’ll give it all I’ve got,
but I won’t play on the Sabbath.”
Thomas sent to minors
Though a good fielder and a
solid hitter (.271), Thomas was
“curiously” sent down to Milwaukee’s
Spokane Indians farm
club, according to Woodward.
The Brewers’ official explanation
was the team needed
“fresh pitching strength.”
But that wasn’t the real reason,
according to former Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel sports
editor Bill Dwyre.
Dwyre wrote: “No matter
how tolerant and ecumenical
Brewers management wants to
be, they are irked by having a
player sit out two games a
Thomas also told People he
believes he was sent down because
the Brewers management
thought “I would hate it so
much, I’d change my mind.”
But as far as his chances of
making the majors again, Thomas
said: “The only way I’d go
back to Milwaukee is if they accepted
my beliefs, and I don’t
think there’s much of a chance
of that happening.”
Sports writer Art Voellinger remembers
He vividly remembers seeing
the last time he saw Thomas,
he was “walking on his hands,”
while his wife was pushing their
children in a stroller along North
Third Street in Dupo.
“He was one of the most
versatile athletes I ever encountered,”
said Voellinger, who
covered minor league baseball
with The Sporting News in the
Like Voellinger, Thomas had
a love for baseball. It was only
fitting that Voellinger and
Thomas developed a friendship.
According to the Lawrence
Journal-Word, Thomas began
to experience emotional problems
soon after joining the
Thomas’ “ferocious temper”
once led him to miss half a
baseball season in 1975 after he
struck an umpire in the nose.
He was also outspoken in
critcizing pitchers who hit batters,
saying, “I think they ought
to make a rule that if a guy gets
hit and is able to get up, they
should tie the pitcher’s hands
behind his back and let the hitter
smack him in the face.”
Bud Selig, former Brewers’
president and current commissioner
of Major League Baseball,
called Thomas’ story tragic.
“I know a lot of people are
mad at us because of what they
think we’ve done to him,” Selig
said. “He’s a real nice kid who
wanted to do the right thing.”
Thomas was unsuccessful in
his later attempts to rejoin the
Brewers or sign with another
major league baseball organization
He then played in Boise, Idaho,
for the Independent Buckskins
in the Northwest League,
where he won the Class A
league’s batting title in 1978.
Afterward, Thomas quit baseball
In April of 1980, he underwent
psychiatric care at the
University of South Alabama,
according to several published
Haven said he saw Thomas
very little after his baseball career
Former Dupo chemistry
teacher and athletic director
Richard Bright believes Thomas
lived “a confused life” growing
The only emotional support
Thomas might have received
was from his high school sweetheart,
Judy Baker, he said.
Bright believes that confusion
ultimately “led to his demise.”
“I wish there was something
I could have done,” he said.
Nurtured in poverty, Thomas
would register his love in dollars.
Said Ginger Patterson: “Danny
went through $60,000 like
you wouldn’t believe. He went
from rags to riches to rags real
Thomas died at 29. His family
was so impoverished by then
that they were unable to afford
funeral expenses or even remain
in Alabama for his potter’s field
In later years, sports writers
such as Furman Bisher have recalled
baseball career and eventual
Sports columnist John
Blanchette of Spokane’s Spokesman-
Review described Thomas
in a 1986 column as a “troubled
soul,” saying, “no one was more
haunted than Danny Thomas.”