The ‘Phillies 50’ series pitching entry from the 1974 ball club is another who fits absolutely perfectly into the definition of minimal impact on both that year’s ball club and Major League Baseball as a whole.
Right-hander Erskine Thomason had been the 22nd round pick of the Phillies in the 1970 MLB Amateur Draft out of, believe it or not, Erskine College in his native South Carolina.
Thomason won a dozen games with Low-A Spartanburg in 1971 and then 11 more with High-A Burlington in the 1972 season. Then in 1973, Thomason moved on to Double-A Reading and continued his strong development, winning another dozen games while tossing 183 innings over 26 starts.
With Triple-A Toledo in 1974, Thomason made 28 starts. Just as he had during impressive seasons the previous two years in Reading and Burlington, he yielded fewer hits than innings pitched. That put the 25-year-old in line for his promotion to the big-leagues when rosters expanded in September.
On September 18, 1974 at Veterans Stadium during what would end up a 5-2 Phillies loss to the visiting Chicago Cubs, manager Danny Ozark gave Thomason his first and what would prove to be his only appearance in Major League Baseball.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, Tony Taylor had pinch-hit for reliever Gene Garber. That opened the 9th inning for Thomason’s opportunity, and he would impress. He struck out the first batter that he faced, Steve Swisher, and then retired both Steve Stone and Rick Monday on easy infield ground outs.
Amazingly, it appears that a film crew was following Thomason for months and reporting on his climb from the minors to the majors. As John Paschal wrote for Fangraphs back in May 2017: “…his first inning had made for an exciting coda. Sadly, however, the film crew had not reached Veterans Stadium in time to capture Thomason’s performance.”
Why this was Thomason’s only opportunity with the Phillies and in MLB is a bit of a mystery. Converted to a bullpen role for the 1975 season, Thomason allowed just 83 hits over 92 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. But that would be the last he was heard from in baseball until a brief 1979 comeback.
His page at Wikipedia reports that Thomason worked for the South Carolina Tax Commission during that interlude between 1975-79. When he did return at age 30, Thomason made 18 appearances including 11 starts with Double-A Reading, going 6-2 with a 3.60 ERA while allowing 100 hits across 80 innings.
Upon finally retiring after that season, Thomason became the pitching coach for the Phillies minor league club at Spartanburg in 1980. He would then serve as a pitching coach in the Chicago Cubs minor league system from 1981-86 before finally retiring from baseball.
Now at age 71, Thomason works as a sales manager at Fairway Outdoor Advertising in his native South Carolina. He has been with the company for 34 years, ever since leaving baseball.