Sedalia lost a Hall of Famer over the weekend with the passing of Bud Thomas. The Sedalia native, former Heber Hunt Elementary principal and former St. Louis Browns shortstop died Saturday. He was 86.
Inducted into the Smith-Cotton Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, Thomas played American Legion baseball in Sedalia, earning an invitation to play in an American Legion All-Star game in New York for a team coached by Ty Cobb against a team coached by Babe Ruth. He was signed by the Browns organization and spent several years in the Browns minor league system before making his Major League debut Sept. 2, 1951.
He played in 22 Major League games, went seven for 20 at the plate, hit a home run in a game against the Philadelphia A’s and was playing shortstop during a game against the Red Sox when his teammate Satchel Paige faced Ted Williams.
That proved to be Thomas’ only Major League season and he later left baseball and settled in Sedalia as a teacher and later as the principal of Heber Hunt.
“Bud was an important part of the early days of Sedalia baseball and helped build baseball into what it is today in this town,” said Smith-Cotton baseball coach Jud Kindle. “He will be missed by the Smith-Cotton baseball family.”
Earl Finley met Thomas after coming to Sedalia as a teacher in 1959 and called Thomas “a great guy and a good friend of mine.” Both played semi-pro baseball in Superior, Nebraska, though not at the same time. The two traded stories of their baseball careers and competed against and alongside each other on the golf course.
“A lot of the kids knew about Bud and respected him for (his baseball career),” Finley said. “He used to come out to practice once in a while when I was coaching and the kids were very respectful and knowledgeable about Bud’s past achievements.”
Shortly after being inducted into the Smith-Cotton Hall of Fame, Thomas was honored during a Smith-Cotton game at Liberty Park.
“It was good to see him in such high spirits and meet him and get to talk to him,” Kindle said.
Finley said he is proud that he got a chance to be associated with Thomas.
“When I think of Bud Thomas, I think of the great benefits that thousands of kids received from an association with Bud,” Finley said. “He was a guy who had a philosophy of ‘always do your best.’ … He was always looking out for what was best for the kids of Sedalia.”
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles