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Thad Christopher

“Five imported Negro Stars, Coney Williams, Bus Quinn (aka Armando Vasquez), Thad Christopher, Raphael Cabrera and Steve Wylie proved a sound investment for the backers of the Greys as they turned a ‘good’ club into a ‘dream team.’” Brandon Sun, 12/30/1948

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

July, 2012

Thadist “Thad” Christopher
Batted left, threw right
HT: 6’-0”, WT: 180
Born: December 24, 1912 in Tampa, Florida
Died: January, 1973 in Los Angeles,CA
Teams: Nashville Elite Giants, New York Black Yankees, New York Cubans, Cincinnati Buckeyes, Baltimore Elite Giants, Toledo Crawfords, Homestead Grays, Newark Eagles, Cuba, Joe Lillard’s All-Stars
Position: outfield, first base, catcher
Career: 1935-1945

Thad Christopher was a solid outfielder for more than a decade, known as a solid line-drive hitter and slick fielder. He was also known for jumping from one team to another for a few bucks more.

After breaking in with the Nashville Elite Giants and New York Black Yankees in 1935, Christopher joined the star-studded Newark Eagles completing an outfield that also included Ed Stone and Paul Dixon. Other Eagles included Hall of Famers Mule Suttles, Leon Day, Willie Wells and Ray Dandridge.

After the ‘36 season, Christopher was traded to the Pittsburgh Crawfords, but he never reported and instead jumped to the Dominican Republic League along with Satchel Pagie, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Bill Perkins, Showboat Thomas, Clyde Spearman and Johnny Taylor. The Negro Leagues suspended Christopher and the other players for one year, and in ‘38 Christopher returned to the Negro Leagues with the New York Black Yankees, and batted over .400 in limited action.

In 1939, Christopher played with the Toledo Crawfords under player-manager Oscar Charleston, though he struggled at the plate.

Christopher became an “outlaw” again in 1940, jumping to the Mexican League, and when he returned to the U.S. he played with Newark again, as well as the Cleveland Buckeyes before entering the army in 1942. During World War II, Christopher was chosen to play for Joe Lillard's All-Star Team in USO camp shows; also on the team were Neck Stanley, Ed Stone, Showboat Thomas, Dave Barnhill, Harry Williams and Norman Robinson.

Christopher played with three teams in ‘43, the Homestead Grays, Cleveland Buckeyes and Baltimore Elite Giants, batting over .370 overall. In ‘44 and ‘45, Christopher played with the New York Black Yankees and Newark Eagles, playing his last few seasons with young stars such as Don Newcombe, Monte Irvin and Jimmy Wilkes; during the ‘44 season, Christopher, not known as a home run hitter, blasted one over the roof at the Polo Grounds.

Christopher played four more seasons with the New York Black Yankees in the late 40s and one season with the Brandon Greys of the Manitoba Senior League in Canada. The Greys, with five ex-Negro Leaguers, won the league with a 25-8 record, then beat the second place Winnipeg Reos in the playoffs to become undisputed league champs. Christopher spent the season as the regular catcher, and provided good punch at the plate, coming in second in the league in batting with a .333 mark with a few tape-measure homers; the batting champ was future Hall of Fame NHL goalie Terry Sawchuck with a .376 clip. Christopher’s black teammates, Armando Vasquez (10-1 on the mound) and Steve Wylie (12-1), led the pitching staff.

In 1950, Christopher played with the Brooklyn Cuban Giants, a black traveling team managed by Brady Johnson and featuring star shortstop Coney Williams. Christopher continued to play top semipro ball for several more seasons before quitting and as a player and moving to Southern California.

*Some Man-Dak League information from www.attheplate.com