"At the time I didn't really think about why they tried to help us out. I just figured maybe some of the coaches put them up to it, but I found out later that not everyone does that type of thing. I guess they just saw the potential in us and that's one of the reasons why they helped us."
Stargell also provided some important off-field advice. During the 1960s racism against African-Americans was still strong, especially in the South, where Thomas and some of his teammates spent their off- seasons. Having been there and established relationships in certain areas, Stargell advised Thomas on where to go and where to stay away.
"At that time, especially down in the South, racism was really bad. And he taught me a few things about where to go and who to stay with and just maintain myself down there," said Thomas. "If he wouldn't have taught me the things he did, I probably would have been shot."
Thomas got through his time in the South without incident and played alongside other Pirate greats such as Al Oliver, Doc Ellis and Bill Mazeroski.
Thomas last got together with Stargell during the 1993 baseball season when both were in Seattle for an old-timers game. It was there that Thomas met future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
Thomas' career was cut short in 1969 when he was injured attempting to slide into a base, but he has competed in various old-timers games since then. Every now and then, though, he said he'll get flashbacks about his playing days and his time spent with Stargell.
"When I found out he died I just couldn't believe it because he meant so much to me. I mean, he took care of me like a dad. I guess that's why they called him Pops," said Thomas. "When we were with him he would take us out to church with him and just made us feel comfortable. Everything he did was more than special. He was like my pop. And all I can say is, thank you Pops."