Charles Thomas, an African-American man and Zanesville High School graduate was recruited to play baseball at Ohio Wesleyan University by Branch Rickey, the same man who signed Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues.
"The model of Jackie Robinson, as far as who Branch Rickey was looking for is a man by the name of Charles Thomas who grew up here in Zanesville and went to school here in Zanesville and went to Ohio Wesleyan and based on some of his experiences at Ohio Wesleyan and Branch Rickey, became the model Branch Rickey was looking for as far as the character goes as a person to break the color barrier," said Doug Pollock, OUZ Athletic Director and Baseball Coach.
Although Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player to play in the Major Leagues, it was Branch Rickey's memories of Charles Thomas that inspired him to integrate Major League Baseball and sign Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"A lot of times here in town we don't think there's much of a connection to national events but through Clay Littick and through Charles Thomas, Zanesville is directly related to one of the most historical events in baseball and also in society and the major leagues."
The movie about Jackie Robinson's life, "42" hits theaters Friday.