Sunday, March 6, 2011

EMAW #2 - Keith Thomas

1953 Topps #129
Most people around northcentral Kansas would not know the name Keith Thomas.  However, most would probably say they have been to Kite's, a bar in Manhattan's Aggiville District.  Keith "Kite" Thomas is the namesake of that bar, one of Aggieville's most historic bars, and one that was recently name the #1 College Sports Bar in the Nation.

"Kite" Thomas was born in 1923 in Kansas City, KS.  Following a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he came to Manhattan, KS and played basketball and baseball at Kansas State University.  His collegiate baseball career would only last one year (1947) when he was signed as a free agent by scout Lee McPhail for the New York Yankees. (Would anybody care to guess why a Royals fan would care about Lee McPhail?  Answer at the bottom.)  Thomas went on to play 5 seasons in the minor leagues before being drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics in the Rule V draft away from the New York Yankees.  He would go on to make his major league debut on April 19, 1952.  He would continue to play with the Athletics until he was selected off waivers by the Washington Senators on June 30, 1953.  Thomas would play his last major league game on September 27, 1953 when he was traded to the Chicago White Sox and sent to the minors.  He retired from baseball the next year.

Thomas would end up playing in 137 games over his 2 major league seasons.  He batted .233 with 52 hits, 7 home runs, and 32 runs batted in.  His best professional season came in 1950 with Beaumont (TX) when he had 156 hits, 109 runs, 42 doubles, 8 triples, 16 home runs, 111 runs batted in, and batted .283 in 149 games.

In 1954 he would move back to Manhattan and open the now famous Kite's Bar.  The tavern was said to dispense more beer than any other in Kansas during the 1950s.  He would continue to operate the bar until he sold it in 1969.  He would eventually end up owning over 37 Pizza Hut restaurants in the eastern Carolinas.  Keith "Kite" Thomas passed away on January 7, 1995 at the age of 71 in Rocky Point, NC. Keith Thomas is on the Kansas State University All-Century Baseball Team.

(**Lee McPhail would serve as President of the American League from 1974-1984.  He would overturn the controversial call in the infamous Pine Tar Game which would eventually allow the Royals to defeat the Yankees.**)

**This is the second player in the EMAW Series, a look at the history of Kansas State University players on cardboard.  EMAW stands for Every Man a Wildcat, a popular phrase amongst Wildcat fans.**

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