July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Al Thomas going into Ohio Prep Sports Writers Hall of Fame

MEDINA — Al Thomas will become part of another sports hall of fame in March.

Already a member of the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame, the longtime sports editor at The Gazette will be inducted into the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame during the boys state basketball tournament in Columbus. An exact time and date have not been established.

Al Thomas

Thomas, who basically functioned as a one-man sports department for approximately 20 years starting in the 1950s, had the Al Thomas Award named in his honor. He died in 1974.

The award is presented annually to a new Medina County Sports Hall of Fame inductee who contributed to sports in a non-playing and non-coaching manner, as Thomas did for so many years through his newspaper work.

“It was just a way of life,” Thomas’ late wife, Evelyn, said when he was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. “He loved sports. It was the big joke in Medina: Evelyn and Al Thomas would spend their anniversary at a basketball game. It always worked out that way.”

Added Joe Cowden, former managing editor at The Gazette, when Thomas was inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame: “He was the one-man sports staff. He complained all the time. We all did.”

Thomas was born in Cleveland on June 16, 1919 and spent most of his life in Mallet Creek. He graduated from York High in 1938.

In 1923, with two of his three children already born, he entered the Navy. He remained active in Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion activities the rest of his life.

After being discharged from the service, Thomas worked as an adjuster in Cleveland for Home Indemnity for six years. He came to The Gazette in the early 1950s and later served on city council and as a volunteer probation officer.

Thomas also coached baseball and assisted his wife with her Girl Scout duties for more than 30 years.

“Al was as honest as the day was long,” the late Bob Peters, who coached basketball at Medina, said at the time of Thomas’ Medina County Sports Hall of Fame induction. “He was probably one of the fairest guys I ever came in contact with in sports.”

Thomas was best known for his “Doubting Thomas” columns, in which he was willing to tackle any issue.

“Once he made up his mind on something, he was determined that was the way it should be,” Cowden said. “On the other side, he didn’t hesitate to ask for a lot of opinions from both sides before he made up his mind.”

Augie Rios, a former principal at Medina, and former athletic director Rollie Platz organized an Al Thomas Night shortly before his death, and that later turned into the Al Thomas Preview, a now-defunct basketball program that helped generate college scholarships.

“The thing that impressed me about Al was not only his interest in sports, but his knowledge about music, drama, plays, world affairs,” Rios said. “He was a well-rounded individual. He could write an article on just about anything.”

Tim Stried, director of information services for the OHSAA, is interested in inviting members of Thomas’ family to attend the hall of fame ceremony during the boys state basketball tournament. If you are a relative of Thomas or know someone who is, Stried can be reached at tstried@ohsaa.org.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.