Lee reached the major leagues in 1933 at age twenty-seven and struggled for four
years with Cleveland. His fortunes changed when White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes saw
something in the lefthander and obtained him in a three-way deal. Relying on fine
control and a sinking fastball, he blossomed under the tutelage of coach Muddy Ruel
and became one of baseball's top lefthanders from 1937 to 1941. But little offensive
support left him on the losing end of many close decisions. In 1941 he had a great
year, leading the league with 30 complete games and a 2.37 ERA, and collecting a
$2,500 bonus for winning more than 20. Three years of misery followed; he broke his
arm and underwent two bone chip removals and a neck operation. He bounced back in
1945, going 15-12, and was still pitching at age forty-two, nine years before his
son, pitcher Don Lee, broke in with the Tigers. Ted Williams homered off both of
them, the only man to hit a HR off a father and son.
»May 21, 1938: The power-laden Yankees give little support to P Spud Chandler, but he hits a home run in the 8th to gain a 1–0 victory over Thornton Lee and the White Sox.
»September 19, 1939:
Ted Williams hits a HR off Thornton Lee, one of
31 HRs he will hit in his rookie season. Williams
will homer off Thornton's son, Ron Lee, 21 years later.
»August 5, 1942: White Sox 1B Don Kolloway's 2-out steal of home in the 5th inning is the only run of the game against Tiger lefty Hal Newhouser. Sore-armed Thornton Lee is the winner. There are seven games played today, and five end in shutouts.
»May 29, 1948: Richie Ashburn hits his 1st ML homer, a leadoff inside-the-park home run, off Thornton Lee's 3rd pitch. It runs Ashburn's hit streak to 18 games but it's the Phils only run, as the Giants win, 7–1. Bill Rigney leads off the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings with hits, while Sid Gordon adds a three-run homer in the 5th. Lee is a complete-game winner over another ex-American League hurler, Walt Dubiel.