Thomas earned his first shot with the Brewers by hitting 51 home runs for Sacramento in 1974. After playing parts of the next two seasons in Milwaukee, he was sent down to Spokane in the Pacific Coast League in 1977 for what Dalton calls "possibly his last chance" to prove himself. Thomas responded with his finest professional season: a .322 batting average, 36 homers and 114 RBIs. "He realized that he had to stop letting everything else get in the way of his baseball or he just wouldn't make it," says John Felske, his Spokane manager.
Thomas showed he belonged in the majors last season by hitting 32 homers, driving in 86 runs and batting .246. Of course, he struck out 133 times, but clearly that is the nature of the beast. And he is good-natured. The Brewers automatically assume that Thomas is responsible for any clubhouse prank, such as the wide-eyed salmon heads that peered from former First Baseman Tony Muser's locker last year or the live frog that found its way into Sal Bando's athletic supporter during training camp this spring. Recently Thomas filled cigarettes with exploding powder and put up a sign inviting teammates to have a smoke.
The Brewer who lights up one of the loaded cigarettes is in for a big surprise, but then surprises are what Thomas promises.