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Lou Thuman

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: December 13, 1916 Baltimore, MD
Date and Place of Death:    December 19, 2000 Baltimore, MD
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Military Unit: 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Louis C. F. Thuman was born on December 13, 1916, in Baltimore, Maryland. A Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate, he was working at the Glenn Martin airplane factory and playing third base for the Apaches - a local amateur ball club - when scout Joe Cambria spotted him. Cambria was impressed with the youngster’s arm speed and he was signed as a pitcher by the Washington Senators.

Thuman broke in with the York White Roses of the Class A New York-Penn League in 1936. He was with the Salisbury Indians of the Class D Eastern Shore League in 1937, then posted a 7-8 record and 2.75 ERA in 19 appearances with the Class D Florida State League's St. Augustine Saints in 1938.

In 1939, the 6-foot-2, right-hander was 8-15 with the Greenville Spinners of the Class B Saouth Atlantic League and received a late-season call-up to the Washington Senators. Thuman was 22 years old when he made his big league debut against the Philadelphia Athletics on September 8, 1939. He pitched just one inning and would make a further two brief appearances before the season ended. Only control problems appeared to stand in the youngster’s way. “If I can improve that,” he said at the time, “I think I can give the hitters trouble with my fast one.”

Thuman was with the Charlotte Hornets of the Class B Piedmont League in 1940. He was 9-11 in 31 appearances and received another late-season call-up from the Senators and was used as a reliever in two games. His final major league appearnce was on September 27, 1940, in a horrible 24-4 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Coming in to relieve Rene Monteagudo in the fourth inning - with his team down 6-2 - Thuman faced six batters, walking three, allowing two hits and five earned runs before giving way to Joe Krakauskas (Krakauskas completed the game and allowed a further 12 earned runs).

Thuman entered military service in April 1941. He served with the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, and arrived in England in February 1943. Thuman played very little baseball in the Army but, while in England, became interested in darts. He bought his own set and became a pretty good player. However, he did appear in one ball game - an all-professional Army-Air Force all-star game that was staged at Wembley Stadium, London, before a crowd of 21,500 on August 3, 1943. Thuman pitched two innings in relief against the victorious Air Force team and allowed two hits but no runs.

In 1944, shortly after D-Day, the 175th Infantry Regiment was sent to France and during action in the St. Lo area, Thuman was hit in the right shoulder by a sniper's bullet. It was the end of Thuman’s war and the end of his baseball career.

Thuman was spent the remainder of the year in a military hospital in Europe and was shipped back to the United States in December 1944. He convalesced in Washington state and returned home to Baltimore in May 1945. He tried to play again but the bullet had taken away his fastball. Devastated, Thuman took a clerical job with Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore to avoid the game, and never used the "gold pass" he was given that allowed free access to any major league or minor league ballpark.

Thuman almost never watched or listened to ballgames, he owned no baseball caps and never met with his former teammates. The one concession to his ball-playing past was to honor the requests of fans and memorabilia collectors who wrote him seeking autographs. He always kept a supply of photos of himself as a player which he would sign and send to fans.

“I am 79 years old now and in good shape, except for throwing a curve ball,” Thuman told me when I contacted him about his military service in 1996.

Lou Thuman died of pneumonia at the Dulaney-Towson Health Care Center in Baltimore, on December 19, 2000. He was 84 years old and is buried at the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore.

Date Added December 29, 2017

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