Julian Thomas (Jewel, Jack, Jule, Home Run)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 220 lb.
Thomas debuted in 1909 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants. In 1910, he hit .371 against top black teams, second in the east behind Luis Bustamante's .373. He batted .350 in 1911. In 1912, he went as far west as he would go for a summer, hitting .357 for the St. Louis Giants. He tied for fourth in average behind Kiko Magrinat, Whip Pryor and Pete Hill and led with three home runs. Like some of the other players who could hit the occasional home run during the long ball-unfriendly Deadball Era, he was nicknamed "Home Run".
The Virginian slugger had an off-year in 1913, hitting .235 back with Brooklyn. He improved to .286 in 1914, leading the eastern clubs with two home runs and tying for the most doubles (3). He was also 5th in average behind Louis Santop, Spot Poles, Doc Wiley and Joe Hewitt. That winter, he accompanied the New York Lincoln Giants during a trip to Cuba. He would spend most of the next decade manning center field for New York.
In 1915, Thomas made a quick splash in New York, batting .429. He hit .346/.378/.410 for a 135 OPS+ in 1916 and .418/.496/.592 with 22 runs and 25 RBI in 29 games in 1917. Among top black eastern clubs, he led in average, tied Poles and Blainey Hall for second in runs, led in hits (41), was third in doubles (6, one behind Hall and Santop), tied Smokey Joe Williams for the home run lead (3), tied Hall for the RBI lead, tied Hall for the walk lead (15), was second to Williams in slugging, led in OBP and had a 215 OPS+, second to Williams. He was 0 for 7 in an exhibition that year against Joe Bush.
Thomas was 31 years old in 1918 but not slowing down, as his .352/.397/.463 batting line indicates. He drove in 23 runs in 27 games and had a 161 OPS+. He ranked among the East's leaders in hits (1st, 38), doubles (1st, 8), triples (tied for 2nd, 2), RBI (1st, 9 ahead of runner-up Santop), average (5th among players with 10+ games), slugging (5th) and OPS+ (4th). He hit .329/.404/.443 with 18 RBI in 21 games, for a 147 OPS+, in 1919.
Thomas batted .367/.404/.571 for a 233 OPS+ in 1920, driving in 12 in 12 games. He led players with 10+ games in average, OPS and slugging, was second to Dick Lundy in OBP and tied for fifth in RBI. That winter, he hit .257 in the California Winter League. He became New York's player-manager in 1921 (Seamheads.com lists Williams as managing the club in 1921-1922; Holway lists Thomas) and hit .341/.420/.523 with 10 RBI in 11 contests. He was 5 for 19 with a homer in 1922.
From 1916-1922, he batted .358/.416/.493 for a 169 OPS+ with 30 doubles and 105 RBI in 124 games; bear in mind, that this was all in the "latter half" of his career, after he turned 29. He still ranked fifth in the Negro Leagues in average during that period (behind Heavy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Santop and Joe Williams), 9th in OBP and 8th in OPS+ (trailing Johnson, Charleston, Santop, Cristobal Torriente, Williams, Charlie Blackwell and Pete Hill).
Thomas was down to .264 in 1923, ending his nine-year run with the Lincoln Giants. The 37-year-old hit .281 in his third stint with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, in 1924, then hit .407 as a backup outfielder and the player-manager of the 1925 Lincoln Giants. He had his fourth appearance with Brooklyn in 1926, then spent 1927 with the minor Pennsylvania Red Caps of New York. He got a third go-around with the Lincoln Giants in 1928, when the 41-year-old started alongside Agustin Bejerano and Julio Rojo, Sr. in the outfield. He wound down his career with the Red Caps.