David Adam

Three Yankees farmhands excelled in baseball after playing days ended

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 18, 2016 7:05 am Updated: Apr. 18, 2016 1:57 pm

(Third in a series)

How many players who played professional baseball in Quincy went on to play in the major leagues?

Quincy had professional baseball teams for several decades, starting in the late 1880s with the Quincy Quincys in the unaffiliated Northwestern League and, save for a couple of gaps, lasting until the Quincy Cubs played their last season in the Class A Midwest League in 1973.

The number of players who made a stop in Quincy on their way to professional baseball is in the hundreds. The early careers of three Quincy Cubs and three Quincy Giants were covered in the first two columns.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com and the Society of American Baseball Research, this week's column looks back on three former New York Yankees farmhands who went on to successful careers in baseball -- but they'll be remembered more for what they did after their playing days ended.

Tony Kubek

Kubek attended Bay View High School in Milwaukee, where he excelled in football, basketball and track. He had to play in sandlot baseball leagues after his freshman year because Bay View dropped baseball. He signed with the Yankees in 1954 for a $1,500 bonus and was assigned to Owensboro, Ky., of the Class D KITTY League, where he hit .344 in 113 games.

He played in 1955 for the Quincy Gems of the Class B Three I League, where he hit .334 with 14 home runs in 1955. At the end of Quincy's season, he got a brief call-up to the Denver Bears of the Triple-A American Association. He was with the Yankees in 1957 when he was named the American League Rookie of the Year. As a shortstop for the Yankees from 1957-1965, Kubek made four All-Star teams and was part of three World Series championship teams.

Kubek went on to make an even bigger mark as a broadcaster, serving as an analyst for NBC's "Game of the Week" from 1965-1989, as well as calling games for the Toronto Blue Jays (1977-1989) and New York Yankees (1990-1994). At NBC, he broadcast 11 World Series, 14 American League Championship Series and 10 All-Star Games.

After a 30-year career in broadcasting, Kubek received the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown in 2009.

Kubek, 80, now lives in Appleton, Wis.

Lee Thomas

Thomas was born in Peoria and went to Beaumont High School in St. Louis, where he excelled in football, basketball and baseball. Shortly after he graduated in June 1954, he signed with the Yankees for a bonus of around $4,000.

Five days after his signing, he had four hits for the Owensboro (Ky.) Oilers in the Class D KITTY League to start his professional career.

At age 19, Thomas spent the summer of 1955 with the Quincy Gems of the Class B Three I League, where he played 106 games and batted .265 with 12 home runs. Thomas spent five more years in the minor leagues because of the presence of outfielders like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris with the Yankees.

He was made the Yankees in the spring of 1961, but after just two at-bats, he was traded to the expansion Los Angeles Angels. He played for six teams during an eight-year career, with his best season in 1962 with the Angels when he hit .290 with 26 home runs and 104 RBIs.

Thomas went on to become the director of player development from 1980-88 with the St. Louis Cardinals, who won one World Series title and two National League pennants during his time there. As general manager with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1988-97, he earned recognition as The Sporting News Major League Executive of the Year in 1993.

He now serves as special assistant to Dan Duquette, executive vice president with the Baltimore Orioles.

Whitey Herzog

Herzog is remembered for his 19-year career as a manger in the major leagues. He was successful as a manager both with the Kansas City Royals of the 1970s and the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980s. His teams captured six division championships, three pennants and one World Series title. He also managed the Texas Rangers and California Angels, and he was the general manager of the Cardinals from 1980-82 and the Angels from 1993-94.

Herzog was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a vote of the Veterans Committee and was inducted in 2010.

He also had an eight-year career as a major league player.

Herzog, who is from New Athens, Ill., signed out of high school with the Yankees and started his career as a 17-year-old outfielder with the McAlester Rockets of the Class D Sooner State League in 1947. He eventually played for the 1952 Quincy Gems, where he batted .289 in 68 games before being promoted to Class AA Beaumont in the Texas League and Class AAA Kansas City of the American Association that same year.

Just when he seemed primed to get a shot in the big leagues, Herzog missed the 1953 and 1954 seasons while serving in the military. After the Yankees traded him to the Washington Senators in Feb. 1956, Herzog finally broke in with the Senators. He eventually played for the Kansas City A's, the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers, mostly as a reserve outfielder.

How can my sports question be answered? Just ask. We'll quiz players, coaches, athletic directors, officials, historians ... anyone who can tell us what you want to know. Submit questions to dadam@whig.com or mail them to The Quincy Herald-Whig, P.O. Box 909, Quincy, IL 62301. Provide a name and phone number so we can respond or clarify information.

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