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Hank Thompson was born on this date in 1925. He was a Black Negro League baseball player
He was born Henry Thompson in Oklahoma City. He became the hard-hitting star for the Kansas City Monarchs, playing both infield and outfield. At 17, Thompson played right field in his first season with the Monarchs, batting around .300. The following year, in March, he was drafted into the Army. Thompson was a machine gunner with the 1695th Combat Engineers at the historic Battle of the Bulge. Sergeant Thompson was discharged on June 20, 1946, and returned to the Monarchs, who were in the midst of capturing the league title.
After winning the Negro American League pennant, the Monarchs faced the Negro National League’s Newark Eagles, led by Leon Day, Max Manning, Larry Doby, and Monte Irvin. During the seven-game series, Thompson hit .296 in a losing effort. He possessed a powerful throwing arm and covered the outfield with grace.
Thompson was well-liked by his teammates, but trouble also liked him. After the season, Thompson joined the Satchel Paige All-Stars, who barnstormed the country against Bob Feller’s All-Stars in separate private luxury planes. Thompson claimed his share for 17 days’ work was an amazing $7,500. With the start of the 1947 season, history was made when Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
A few months later, Thompson was informed by the Monarchs’ traveling secretary that his contract, along with teammate Willard Brown, had been sold to the St. Louis Browns. On July 17, Thompson became the third Negro League player in the Major Leagues. He went hitless, with an error, as the Philadelphia A’s beat the Browns, 16-2. Thompson was with the Browns a little over a month and hit only .256 in 78 at-bats, playing in 27 games, mainly at second base.
On August 23, he was released and rejoined the Monarchs through the 1948 season. In his last year with Kansas City, Thompson batted .375 with 56 RBIs in 267 at-bats. He finished third in the batting race behind future New York Giants star Artie Wilson’s .402 and the Chicago White Sox’ Bob Boyd’s .376. Thompson also led the Negro American League in steals with 20. On June 9, 1949, he married Maria Quesada of Havana in Brooklyn.
On July 4 that year, the New York Giants called him and Monte Irvin up from the Giants’ Jersey City farm club. Thompson received $2,500 over the league minimum of $5,000. By signing with the Giants, Thompson earned a unique place in baseball as the first Black to play in the National and American leagues. He also appeared with Cleveland Indians Larry Doby in an August 9 doubleheader, making it the first time Black players of opposing teams appear on the field. Another first occurred when Thompson batted against Dodger Don Newcombe. It was the first time in Major League history that a Black pitcher faced a Black batter.
In the 1951 World Series, he was forced to play right field in place of injured Don Mueller, with Willie Mays and Irvin, creating the first all-Black outfield in Major League history. Thompson spent the next eight seasons with the Giants, compiling a lifetime batting average of .267. In 1957, his contract was sold to the Minnesota Twins of the American Association, where he finished his career.
Thompson played in two World Series, 1951 and 1954, hitting .364 in the latter Series against the Cleveland Indians. Hank Thompson died on September 30, 1969, in Fresno, California.
20th Century Baseball Chronicle
Year-By-Year History of major league Baseball
Copyright 1999, Publications International Ltd.