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Derrel Thomas, From the Penthouse to the Basement, and Back Again

Derrel Thomas experienced the heights of what baseball can offer as a number one draft pick, and reached the pinnacle when his Dodgers won the 1981 World Series. After his baseball career Thomas seemingly lost everything when he was implicated in a drug sting. I briefly met Thomas yesterday, and I’m happy to say, he has come full circle to once again represent the Dodgers with class and his warm smile.

Derrel Thomas‘ MLB career spanned from 1971 to 1985, during which he played for seven teams, and held down every position on the field, with the exception of pitching. He was a Dodger from 1979 to 1983 – it was his longest stint with any team. Here’s a great story about Thomas’ run of 31 innings as the Dodgers’ catcher in 1980.

The switch-hitting Thomas wasn’t a superstar, but his career was charmed enough to bring the local boy back home to Los Angeles just in time for the rise of Fernando Valenzuela, Tommy Lasorda, and a World Series championship. In the World Series, Thomas had seven at bats, with 1 RBI and 2 runs scored. Imagine that – knocking in a run and scoring twice, in a World Series!

Following his career, Thomas made an attempt to remain in baseball as a high school coach at his two alma maters. Controversy over his methods caused him to resign from one, and an arrest led to his losing the other coaching position. In 1993 he was involved in a drug sting. His life seemed on a downward spiral.

Those down times didn’t stop Thomas, who persevered and kept his baseball dreams alive. He recovered from those setbacks and coached in the Reds organization and managed in the minor leagues. He even ran free baseball clinics for underprivileged youth. Thomas now coaches the Rancho Belago Rockets (in California’s Riverside County), along with fellow former major leaguer, James Lofton.

Which brings us to my up close encounter with the baseball phoenix. The Dodgers were running a holiday sale at their Top of the Park giftshop, and in addition, they were offering Dodgers autographs and the opportunity to see the 1981 World Series trophy. I jumped at the chance, and Derrel Thomas was the featured Dodger signing autos when I arrived.


Thomas was cheerful and readily beamed his trademark smile. He spoke freely and took his time with my son and I. The internet is full of stories of former athletes who seem they would rather be anywhere than right there, with you. I’m happy to say I’ve never encountered that from any Dodger, and Derrel Thomas kept that streak alive with his generous signing and sincere warmth as we briefly chatted and snapped photos with him.

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Wearing his Dodgers number 30 (an homage to his baseball hero, Maury Wills), Thomas looked in shape and ready to take the field at any time.

My other thrill was seeing the 1981 World Series championship trophy up close, without a bit of glass between us.


I also stepped out to have a look at the field, and was pleasantly surprised to see several youth teams out and practicing.


Dodgers youth Gavin Lux, Alex Verdugo, Walker Buehler, Willie Calhoun and others were out there giving the kids tips. What a thrill to be a kid practicing on Dodger Stadium grass and being coached by real Dodgers!

It was a great day out at the stadium and truly my pleasure to meet Derrel Thomas.

If you’d like to see a few more photos from my trip to Dodger Stadium yesterday, check out today’s post on my blog, All Trade Bait, All The Time.


Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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Oscar Martinez
I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

94 thoughts on “Derrel Thomas, From the Penthouse to the Basement, and Back Again

  1. I remember when Derrel practically WAS the Dodgers bench. A real Swiss-Army player. Glad he’s back in baseball.

  2. There’s a fan on Twins Daily who has been claiming for a few days now to have a source privy to the Twins-Dodgers offer for Dozier. He claims the Dodgers have their final offer on the table which is DeLeon, Alvarez, and a AAAA player for Dozier. Plenty of reason to be skeptical of an internet rumor but way too much in my opinion.

    1. Why would we hang on to De Leon this long, and pay $16 million to Alvarez just to trade them both away? For a 30 year old career .762 OPS player? What happened to build from within? This is how we’re going to do it? Sign the infirmed and trade prospects for rentals and career 108 OPS+ players?

      I say no.

      1. I told him I had a hard time believing Alvarez would be include in a deal with Deleon and if they had a shot at Deleon and Stewart they Twins would be smart to grab it.

        1. Not De Leon and not Alvarez. They are going to take McCrystal and Kashmere’s place. Give them Verdugo and some Lakers season tickets.

          It would be nice to get these things done witout having to give up 3 prospects at a time. Dozier had a good year and now the Twins want to cash in on it. Take 3 from somebody else. We have other guys who can play second base.

      2. Badger

        I think Solarte is not a bad idea to bring over here to play second, as long as he doesn’t cost a bunch of prospects.

        And I don’t think he will cost anything close to what the Twins want for Dozier.

        Solarte is a switch hitter, and although he didn’t hit lefties hard, he hit them decently.

        And he does have a little pop, he hit 15 HRs, and did that, while playing in most of his games, in San Diego, so Dodger stadium won’t be much different.

        He also hit for a decent average from both sides, and he not only can play second, he can also play some of the other infield positions, so he is flexible.

        The fact that Solarte plays in this same division, gives him a better chance, of succeeding over here, because he knows all the pitchers, and he has already proven he can hit, in this division.

        And Solarte is under team control, for another three years, so he won’t put a big dent in our payroll.

        Dozier would be not only coming to a new division, he would be coming to a new league.

        And it takes some players a while, before they start hitting in a new league, with a bunch of new pitchers.

        And Dozier has only hit above 250 once in his major league career, and although that was last year, he only hit about 260.

        Do we really want to trade away a bunch of our young prospects, to get Dozier, and he isn’t able to make the adjustment to the new league?

        Dozier did hit a lot of HRs, but he did that on a team, that wasn’t in a pennant race, so he wasn’t hitting in high leverage situations.

        And Dozier isn’t one of those pure hitters, that can adjust fast, so he would be a bigger risk, that some think.

        Because Dozier will cost a lot more in prospects, we will expect him to come over here, and hit on the fly.

        And I don’t think his cost in prospects, is worth that risk, because I think he will need at least one year to adjust, and it might take him even longer.

        And we need Dozier to hit this year, not down the line especially if we are giving up a lot of good young prospects.

        Solarte is not that big name player, but he won’t cost as much, and he will fill in fine, until we have the right young player, to play second.

        And we shouldn’t have to give away, one of our young pitchers, to get a player, like Solarte.

    2. Are people disliking the comment or disliking that trade?

      It was an informative comment so I might like it even if I disagreed with such a trade.

  3. I think I remember a story about Derrel getting in trouble when he was with the Giants for washing his car during a game he wasn’t playing in

  4. Loved the guy. Real gritty player, and fun to watch. He played hard all the time. Myself, I have met Tommy Davis twice and have had a friendship with Wes Parker. TD was all class both times I met him. Signed my 1st baseman’s mitt the last time.

    1. Oscar

      Why is my comments waiting to be moderated?

      Did you hear the good news, the Dodgers are close to signing both Kenley and Turner!!

      1. I’m not sure why that happens to some comments and not others.
        Could be a glitch that randomly selects some for moderation?
        Really, neither Scott nor I have the time to sift through and moderate all the comments flying around here.
        Sorry when your comments get stuck. I’ll see what I can see about that.

        1. It looks like its a problem with the spam filter caused by some emoji like plugin installed. I’m trying to fix it but that emoji plugin needs to be removed from the backend completely. The code caused the spam filter to go haywire I think. Im sure oscar and I can fix this soon. Hang tight everyone

  5. It figures… reports Dodgers are in on Greg Holland………recovering from TJ surgery…..right up FAZ’s alley

    1. Moderation…..for saying signing a lame pitcher is right up FAZ’s alley…..well sometimes the truth hurts.

  6. Anyone heard of Chris Camello? He’s reporting that Dodgers and JT are doing 4/65 and should be announced tomorrow.

    Also getting close with Holland. Kenley will announce by Tuesday and this guy say the Marlins may be out and between the Dodgers and Nats.

  7. Great stuff! Derrek Thomas was one of my all time favorite players. Remember he was also a switch hitter. He caught the last out of game 4 of the 81 WS. It was a blast off the bat of Willie Randolph that Derrek caught at the wall in CF to preserve the 8-7 victory and tie the series at 2 games a piece. But yeah those basket catches would cause Tommy lots of grief.

  8. Anyone ever hear of this Chris Camello guy?

    Chris Camello ‏@Chris_Camello 5h5 hours ago
    JANSEN ALERT ?: #Marlins might be out of the running so #Nationals could be #Dodgers only threat to pluck Jansen

    Chris Camello ‏@Chris_Camello 10h10 hours ago
    Because Holland could theoretically be the set-up man to Jansen and really secure the back end of the bullpen #Dodgers

    #Dodgers are expecting Kenley Jansen to make a decision either Monday or Tuesday. If they could sign all 3 guys, that’s successful offseason

    #Dodgers are also getting close to signing former All-star closer Greg Holland. His contract will likely be 1 year and between $3-5 million

    Chris Camello ‏@Chris_Camello 10h10 hours ago
    Sources: #Dodgers getting close on re-signing Justin Turner. The deal could be 4 years and $65 million which could be a bit of a steal

  9. Interesting comments from Rosenthal on the Dodgers and the luxury tax:

    Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 32m32 minutes ago
    Regarding #Dodgers as they pursue Turner, Jansen: Under new CBA, this is a transition year, so new luxury-tax rules do not fully apply… For 2017 only, luxury-tax violators will pay average of what they would have paid under old CBA and new one.

    1. Don’t know. I made a couple of posts and they came up OK but nothing from anyone else in last 18 hours then a whole bunch just a few minutes ago. Then a bunch of comments all at once. The servers we’re using are overloaded, to say the least, and it now looks like they have other problems as well. That’s typical of most companies (and I’m referring to WordPress, not Dodgerreport who is a customer of WordPress), they won’t replace/upgrade equipment until it is absolutely toast.

  10. Read a story about Sborz yesterday. He was a closer at Virginia, and a good one. The Dodgers made him a starter, and he had great numbers last year in the minors. I say that if Jansen leaves, put Sborz back in the pen as closer-to-be. He pitched over a hundred innings last year, so arm strength shouldn’t be an issue. He is a strike machine. He knows how to pitch the last inning, having done so exclusively in college. I saw him pitch with RC, and I was impressed how he can pitch in the strike zone without much contact. He says he will do whatever they want him to do to get to the bigs, so he is our next 9th inning guy.

  11. Good news……According to MLB.COM Turner and the Dodgers are discussing a 4 year deal and the talks are heating up…maybe we get Justin as a Xmas present! And just read a FOX report from Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers are close to resigning Jansen too…….wow….that would be nice

  12. Everyone take everything back you said about Faz when it comes to Turner and Kenley!

    The Dodgers are currently close to signing both Turner and Kenley!!!

  13. Well, all you dumbasses who said FAZ would never spend the money on Jansen were morons. Me included. I did not think they would do it.

    Ditto on Turner. He’s coming back.

    I know this news ruined some of your day!

    1. Yes, I hope that narrative comes to an end now. The fact that they were in on Greinke should have been enough.

      Last night, I tried posting that Chris Camello had tweeted JT was re-signing and the Marlins were out. Also, the Dodgers are close on Holland.

    2. Not really Mark, and I doubt we were dumb asses. It did not look like they were willing to do that….If they do, great makes us all feel better. Does not mean that FAZ had much of a choice…

    3. I’m surprised somewhat, but not. I don’t think the Dodgers will deliberately make the team obviously weaker simply for the sake of getting payroll down. Many here make the mistake of assuming the FO is going to operate along some fundamental ideological lines. If there’s one characteristic that describes Friedman’s managerial style, it’s rational. He’s going to make a situational assessment based on a rough cost/benefit analysis. There was really no one who could come close to replacing Jansen and, although expensive, his cost relative to the prospect of having a quantifiably weaker team made the signing sensible….if 80 mil to a reliever is sensible.

      What is the final tally on your prediction during the year for the contract he would get? I don’t think it was 100 million, was it? I could go back to the argument you and Badger had to see who was ultimately right, but ….meh.

        1. I think Badger said you were crazy. Honestly, I thought that was high at the time. I’m glad they got him, though, and the buzz about bringing in Holland as a setup is kinda exciting, too.

    4. Let’s make it Twitter-official:
      Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 1 minute ago
      Source confirms: Jansen and #Dodgers in agreement on five-year, $80M contract.

    1. According to Tim Brown of Yahoo:

      Kenley Jansen chose Dodgers (5-$80m) over better offers elsewhere, according to sources. Can opt out after three seasons.

      The team has still gotta move either Kazmir or McCarthy for the budget, I’d imagine.

      Wonder if Micah Johnson will get a run at 2nd…

      1. Bluto

        I hope you are right, that they move those two pitchers next.

        The White Sox gave Johnson a chance to play second at the major league level, and he didn’t hit.

        And I guess he didn’t hit much, at AAA last year either.

        1. Johnson hit .261 with 5 HR’s at AAA. About right for a middle infielder with no pop….but he struck out over 100 times. Calhoun would probably get a shot before he does, and they still can go the trade route…

  14. I heard it was 5 years at $80 million for Jansen, which sounds like a discount, since I have to believe that Miami and maybe even Washington bid more. In fact, Miami had the advantage of being in a state without income tax. Sounds very much like a FAZ given that they probably made a good offer, but probably refused to get involved in a bidding war.

    Now let’s hope that the Turner deal becomes official.

    Not only would I not trade DeLeon/Alvarez for Dozier, but neither would I trade DeLeon/Stewart, both of whom I like a lot. Major league ready pitching depth is going to be important for the Dodgers.

    1. Brooklyn

      Turner’s contract is an even better deal!

      I believe it is 62 or 64 million for only four years.

      Kenley doesn’t have a lot of miles on his arm, so he should hold up for his entire contract.

  15. Everyone including Mark, watch MLB Now on the MLB Channel today.

    They rated Turner both offensively and defensively.

    And they said that Turner is the biggest bargain, on the free agent market this year!

  16. At least Mark included himself in that group of dumbasses. I thought the Nats might step on it, but they apparently recognized the insanity of 5 years at $16 million for 60 innings. Man has this game changed. But you know what hadn’t changed? The ridiculous idea that the Dodgers are tight on money. After Turner, I sure would like to see a real starter added.

  17. Good news everyone.

    Now I would try and Braun to play LF . I wonder if we could do a deal that doesn’t involve Puig.

    Remember, Hill, JT & Kenley were all on the team last season and we by most of our admissions, were not quite good enough, especially against LH pitching. We still need to improve. This brings us back to where we were last year.

    1. Watford

      This is great news, because we didn’t have to trade a single prospect yet.

      We can now use a few to get a second baseman, and strengthen the bullpen, and maybe find that right bat.

  18. What’s to complain about now? Except, billionaire Dodgers still not spending enough money!

    I have said it before, I will say it again, we should all feel lucky if Dodgers Resign Turner, beef-up bullpen (including a closer), Sign Hill at a “reasonable” price, Do something about 2nd base and get some right-handed platoon mashers.

    Sign Turner-Check
    Sign a closer-Check
    Sign Hill at a “reasonable” price-Check

    The 2017 roster is shaping up!! Looking a lot like 2016 team, lots of depth and versatility.

    Still to do:

    1. Get some more set-up men. Building top bullpens is a FAZ specialty. FAZ may choose to look internally. Holland, Cahill, Blanton, Feliz or Tolleson could all be nice external pick-ups if cheap.
    2. Do something about 2nd base. FAZ may look internally or trade. Don’t need much to replace Utley, but some nice right-handed lower end trade candidates available, who wouldn’t break the prospect bank!
    3. Get some right-handed platoon mashers. Maybe done, but room for improvement if right deal comes along. Grandal may need platooning, we have Barnes, Gonzalez may need platooning we have Ruff, Thompson or VanSlyke. 2nd base TBD, We aren’t platooning, Turner or Seager. Outfield, might platoon everybody, right-handers on roster, Hernandez, Van Slyke, Thompson, Puig, Segedin. Lefty outfielders, Toles, Ethier and Pederson.
    4. Clear up some roster spots. Plenty of starting pitching, kids getting closer!!!!!! Trade at least two of Kazmir, McCarthy, Ryu and Maeda. Lots of time to do this.

    The above boys and girls is how you construct a MLB team that competes while lowering salary to get out of luxury tax hell in 2018. Crawford, Guerrero and Ethier gone in 2018 with at least two of Kazmir McCarthy, Ryu and Maeda also gone, ought to do it.

    Good job FAZ!!

    1. Boxout

      Isn’t it better to not sign pitchers like MCCarthy, and Kazmir, so you don’t lose some more money, trying to get another team, to take them?

      1. It’s better to always sign players who work out.

        But that never works except in fiction writing and dreams.

        The best is to have a smart, scaleable process.

        They do. To get assets below their value, or whose replacement cost becomes prohibitive.

        It’s probably the latter when it comes to Jansen and Turner.

        I have no problem taking upside chances on pitchers (like McCarthy) or players (like Toles), provided the cost isn’t prohibitive.

        The new luxury tax thresholds may be game-changers though.

        1. Bluto

          It is normal to feel that way, when these high risk pitchers didnt make to the mound much, or don’t produce at a decent level.

          Hill is different, because his upside, was worth the risk!

    2. Nobody is going to trade for Ryu. The guy has not done squat in 2 years. He threw a few innings last year and was done. Maeda is going nowhere……..his contract is so team friendly they would be dumb to do it, and he is the only RH pitcher in the rotation right now.

      1. Nobody would trade for Ryu today, but, maybe during the season if he is finally healthy. Expect to see lots of Kazmir, McCarthy, Wood and Ryu in Spring Training and early season.

        Regarding Maeda, you don’t think almost anybody is available for the right price? If young studs appear ready in 2016 I could see Maeda getting moved, for a pretty nice big price. Same for Wood.

  19. Are we now better than the giants? Another trade of dead wood for an OF might make the answer”yes.” Most of all, I like the fact these guys wanted to stay with this organization. That says a lot about it. It might affect Kershaw’s decision next year. Good job, suits.

    1. So it is your blog after all. Everything pointed to that. Why would anyone want to front for you? And why would you need them?

  20. McCarthy and Kaz may be lights out next year. That’s the nature of the game. They both can be moved, but I would not do it now. I would try and move A-Gon and Ethier by paying half their salaries. Trade ’em to SD for prospects. Then you can afford to trade for Braun. Puig and Calhoun for Braun.

    1. Toles LF
    2. Seager SS
    3. Braun RF
    4. Turner 3B
    5. Pederson CF
    6. Grandal C
    7. Bellinger/SVS/Ruf
    8. Johnson/Hernandez 2B

  21. For the record, it is Scott’s Blog, and Oscar, James and I (maybe others) have administrator privileges (Scott used to have them on my blog). I have posted once or twice a month, I think. I guess jumping to conclusions is an Olympic Sport to some of you!

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