Gray: John Thomas, 84, was triple national champion in British baseball

From SABR member Joe Gray at on March 17, 2013:

British baseball returns to the field this weekend for the start of the semi-competitive run-in to the new season. Sadly, it does so without John Thomas, one of the British game’s great characters and longest-serving veterans, who passed away shortly after the end of the 2012 campaign. He had battled with health problems during the last few years of his life.

The aging process, which he defied for so long, had rapidly caught up with him. Five years earlier, in his late 70s, he was probably among the most sprightly baseball players for his age on the planet.

As a Croydon Pirate from 2003 to 2011, I got to know “JT” during the years that turned out to be the final decade of his life. I would love to cite some heroic act on the diamond or managerial masterstroke as my enduring memory of the man, but the image that will remain with me forever more is quite different.

It was a warm summer evening in the early years of my time with the Pirates and I had just completed my journey from work to their ground at Roundshaw Playing Fields, where I was helping with the set-up for the annual London Tournament. As I passed the toilet block on my left, a silver-haired, balding man emerged from one of the doors muttering that it was out of the question, if we were going to host a tournament where there would be ladies present (as competitors and spectators), to have facilities that were anything but sparkling. I looked down to see that he was clutching a white brush and wearing bright-pink Marigold gloves.

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Originally published: March 18, 2013. Last Updated: March 18, 2013.