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John Thoma

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: November 27, 1919 Albany, NY
Date and Place of Death:    August 9, 2013 Albany, NY
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: First Baseman
Rank: Sergeant
Military Unit: Company E, 397th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

John E. Thoma, Jr., was born on November 27, 1919, in Albany, New York. He attended Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, where he starred in baseball and football for four years. He entered Villanova College, near Philadelphia, where he continued to play baseball and also played for McEnaney's Diner, and Graves and Rodgers in the Albany Twilight Baseball League. In 1940, the left-handed hitting first baseman led the Twilight League with a .400 batting average.

Following graduation from Villanova in 1941, Thoma signed with the Eastern League's Albany Senators and was optioned to the Quebec Athletics of the Class C Canadian-American League. He played six games and batted .136 before the Quebec club returned him to the Senators, who sent him to the Hutchinson Pirates of the Class C Western Association, where he batted just .166 in 87 games.

Thoma, who was expected to report to the Eastern League's Albany Senators in spring 1942, voluntarily retired from baseball. He entered military service in May 1943, and was sent overseas in October 1944. Sergeant Thoma served with Company E of the 397th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division in France and Germany. "Over here now we are finally having some good weather," he wrote the Albany Knickerbocker News in February 1945. "Today you might compare to a day in May at home. That old feeling is still with me and now I have the urge to throw a few again.

"At present my outfit finds itself in the middle of a lull in fighting. It is a welcome rest, but I don't know how long it will last. We have thus far come through the Voges Mountains with flying colors. I have been lucky."

Unfortunately, Thoma's luck was soon to run out after writing this letter. On April 7, at Heilbronn, Germany, Thoma suffered an eye wound and earned the Purple Heart. He was hospitalized in France.

Following military service, Thoma returned home to Albany but not to baseball. He was employed by Seagram's Distillery Company, as New York Sales Manager and retired in 1984. He passed away at the Teresian House Center for the Elderly in Albany, following a long illness on August 9, 2013, aged 93. John Thoma is buried at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Albany.

Date Added December 27, 2017

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