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Card of the (ahem) Week: 1979 Topps #336 Bobby Thompson

Posted by Andy on May 4, 2011

I just saw on the front page of Baseball-Reference.com that Bobby Thompson died. He had an unremarkable playing career, appearing in just 64 games, all in 1978, with the Rangers. I presume this is his only major-league baseball card.

But Thompson was a little bit more famous than the average cup-of-coffee major leaguer since his name is a homophone for that of a much more famous player--Bobby Thomson. Thomson died last year while Thompson, born 30 years after Thomson, died on April 25th of this year. I feel bad for Thompson, as Google searches for him invariably lead instead to Thomson.

Anyway, take a look at that photo above. It is a great example of what Topps was well-known for at this time: airbrushing of photos. Clearly the photo they had of Thompson must have shown him in a different uniform, or perhaps no uniform at all. They painted a Rangers cap on his head and blue and red stripes on his shirt, and left a large amount of space open on his jersey. It's kind of weird, and if you ask me I'd rather have the original photo even if it shows a different team. (Mind you, Thompson was drafted by the Rangers, so if he's wearing a different uniform, presumably it would be for a Rangers minor-league team.)

Though he was in the majors for just one year, Thompson had a few moments in the sun. In one June game, he stroked a walk-off single after the Blue Jays intentionally walked Bump Wills to get to Thompson. Bobby Bonds scored the winning run and the Rangers went over .500. In this May game, Thompson pinch ran for Richie Zisk, moved to third on a single, and then stole home with the winning run as part of a double-steal. A couple weeks earlier, he had been involved in three different innings in which the Rangers scored, his two RBI helping to hold off Reggie Jackson's homer and the Yankees.

The back of the card shows Thompson's entire professional career, including those 64 games in the majors with the Rangers. I love the backs of the 1979 set, and this card even mentions Nolan Ryan in the baseball dates quiz.

Rest in peace, Mr. Thompson.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 at 7:40 am and is filed under Card of the Week. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

32 Responses to “Card of the (ahem) Week: 1979 Topps #336 Bobby Thompson”

  1. panrell Says:

    This post shows a lot of class, to remember a little know ball player like this. I only hope someone from Mr Thompson's family will see this, I'm sure they would appriciate it.

  2. I love learnin' about obscure players by their baseball card. I think if I were him, I'd still be braggin' about stealin' home. That's pretty rare... maybe rarer than a no-hitter?

  3. An observation about Thompson's 1977 minor league season - note he played for 3 different AAA teams that year - Tucson (the Rangers' AAA franchise), Richmond, & Toledo. Interesting that he jumped around between teams that year, but still remained in the Rangers' organization, making the big league club in 1978.

  4. I found that checkoutmycards.com has a couple other Thompson cards.

    The link is here.

    They have a TCMA 1975 Lynchburg Rangers card, as well as a 1978 Burger King card. These 1978 Burger King cards were produced by Topps and resembled the regular-issue 1978 cards pretty closely, except that some players were different and some photos were different. Thompson did not, for example, have a regular-issue Topps card in 1978, but he made it into the Rangers 1978 Burger King set. Note that this card features the same type and extent of airbrushing as the main card featured in my post above.

  5. NotThatMikeD Says:

    @2: Stealing home is not as rare as a no-hitter. 38 players have stolen home 10 or more times with Ty Cobb leading at 54. I would guess it doesn't happen much anymore because of the 'risk' of the play and general lack of speedsters. Paul Molitor is the most recent player on that list.

    (from http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_stbah.shtml)

  6. It's also happened less recently because in a higher run-scoring environment, 1 run matters a little bit less, i.e. there are fewer situations where a team has a runner on 3rd in a tie game or down by one run. I'm not saying that's a RARE situation these days, just that it's less often than it is during other eras of baseball with lower scoring.

  7. #5, I get an error when I try to follow that link.

    I believe even Babe Ruth stole home 10 times in his career.

  8. @3...yeah, Richmond was the Braves affiliate and Toleda was Cleveland's...did big league clubs "loan" out players during these years? Weird.

  9. Dr. Doom Says:

    @7

    You get an error because the parenthesis at the end is for some reason included in the link (I've actually had that issue before on this blog). Just click it again, and then go delete the parenthesis, and it should work.

  10. #9 Thanks.

    I give myself huge props for knowing that Babe Ruth had 10 steals of home. I'm pretty sure it was a trivia question on an edition of TWIB I saw as a kid (Mel Allen days.)

  11. 704_Brave Says:

    According to the Observer, he was the first black baseball player from Charlotte to make the majors.

    http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/charlotte/obituary.aspx?n=bobby-la-rue-thompson&pid=150652268

    Rest in peace Bobby.

  12. You should add this info to his bio section.

  13. I remember fondly the cards of that era, although have to say I don't recall Bobby Thompson. Nice post.
    http://pinetarandbrickbats.blogspot.com/2011/05/hall-of-famers-from-to-well-y.html

  14. Any idea why he stopped playing? Did he get hurt?
    His last season at any level seemed to be that 1978 MLB season. He didn't even play in the minors after that and was only 24.

  15. Artie Z Says:

    Andy - Beckett lists 9 cards for Thompson, although I believe that three of those are actually for the guy who hit the shot heard round the world - unless you think Thompson is in a set with Aaron, DiMaggio, Hitler, Tom Dempsey (the longest FG), the Hindenburg, etc. or that the Danbury Mint made a card of Thompson. There is a Topps Opening Day card from 2001 that is definitely Thomson and not Thompson.

    The 3 cards I see in addition to the 3 you mention are:

    1974 TCMA Gastonia Rangers
    1976 San Antonio Brewers Team Issue
    1993 Rangers Keebler

    The first two are consistent with his minor league stops and the 1993 one seems to be a set of just about everyone who ever played for the Rangers.

  16. 704_Brave Says:
  17. John Autin Says:

    @14, Rich -- I had the same question. I've been searching, but haven't found a word yet about the end of his career in organized baseball.

  18. John Autin Says:

    704_Brave, good dig there.

    I found the book that was referenced in E.F.Q. -- "The 521 All-Stars: A Championship Story of Baseball and Community" -- on Amazon and used the "Look Inside" feature to pursue info on Bobby Thompson. Didn't really find anything new about him directly; but the book does mention his father and brother:

    -- his father, Edward Thompson, "played in the Negro Leagues" in Charlotte (though that term may have been used loosely -- was there ever a NNL, NAL or ECL team in Charlotte?); and

    -- his brother, Alfred Thompson, "spent two seasons as a minor league shortstop before he was cut at age 23" (but I can't find "Alfred Thompson" in B-R minor league search). Alfred played for the "521 All-Stars" until he was paralyzed in a truck-train accident.

  19. John Autin Says:

    Whoops, I messed up the Alfred Thompson search on B-R. There is an Alfred Thompson who played in the Texas system in 1977, and hailed from Mecklenburg County, NC, as did Bobby Thompson. Alfred played 82 games split between Rookie and Class A, batting .222 in 272 PAs, with the unusual extra-base hit totals of 1 double, 2 triples and 3 HRs.

    As for their dad, Edward Thompson, I did find some online references to an Edward Thompson who pitched in the Negro Leagues for the KC Monarchs & Chicago American Giants -- but he was buried in 1979 in Galesburg, Illinois, doesn't fit the expected Charlotte, NC connection.

  20. 704_Brave Says:

    John Autin,

    Did a bit more digging on Carolinas Negro League teams. But nothing specifically on Edward Thompson:

    Prior to minor league integration, black ballplayers banded together to form the Negro leagues, which proliferated in the Northeast. However, North Carolina had its share of professional black teams, Holaday writes, including the Asheville Blues, the Charlotte Black Hornets, the Durham Black Sox and the Winston-Salem Pond Giants. Other teams included the Raleigh Tigers, the Kinston Grays, the Rocky Mount Crocodiles and the Greensboro Goshen Red Wings.

    http://www.yesweekly.com/triad/article-9109-a-storied-past-a-new-beginning.html

    Would be interested to see why Bobby's career ended abruptly at age 24. Perhaps injury, perhaps a minor league demotion which he didn't want to accept...not sure...

  21. leporshia thompson- sturdivant Says:

    I would like to say. That Bobby Thompson is my uncle my whole family was in baseball and it make me so happy 2 see y'all talkin bout my uncle yes he was the 1st black from charlotte to make it. We had other teams that he played on here in charlotte along with his other 2 brother his oldest brother my dad Edward. Chubby Thompson. Also played and the baby brother. Alfred. Thompson played. My uncle alfred played with 521 allstars. And has a book out bout base ball. My family is a baseball family. My brother timothy thompson played also. Check them out. RIP uncle Bobby. Love ur niece leporshia thompson sturdivant

  22. Nash Bruce Says:

    @Leporshia(21): wow, what can I say......great post :-D
    Andy, I agree- the '79 card backs, were great......altho I was only 3-4, during the '79 season, but I caught up to them, a couple of years later:)
    @Artie(15): Did Keebler make sets, of any teams, other than the 1993 Rangers? (If they made a set of "every person who ever played for the" Senators/Twins franchise, for example, that must have been a hell of a lot of cards, for a cookie company....)

  23. Stu Baron Says:

    @Leporshia: Great post - sounds like a fascinating family. Do you know why Bobby stopped playing after 1978?

  24. nice feature. good job and thanks!

  25. andy - nice to see a card of the week post again!

    i posted the 1978 burger king card a while back, if anyone is interested in seeing what it looks like:

    http://garveyceyrusselllopes.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-wish-i-could-have-had-it-my-way-in.html

    @nash - in 1990, target issued an sga set of every player to have appeared in a game for the dodgers as part of their 100th anniversary. over 1000 cards.

  26. DoubleDiamond Says:

    @14, 17, 20 Is it possible that he went to Japan or another foreign league? Or did you already check that?

  27. Ken Koontz Says:

    WOW!!! How truly special these posts are about my friend and former teammate Bobby LaRue Thompson. When his major leagues days ended (no, I do not recall specifics), he returned home and joined his brothers Edward/"Chubby"(pitcher/outfielder) and Alfred/"Gu-Baby"(second baseman) with the Morris Field Rangers. The Rangers, under manager Herman Thomas, was a grand collection of talent that won at least seven consecutive titles in the now-defunct Triple County Semi-Pro Baseball League and also once called the Mecklenburg County Semi-Pro Baseball League. I was a rag-armed pitcher who was really the "old man" (then in my early 30s) on the youth-filled team of talent. After seven years with the Rangers more as a PR-type/player, I "retired" from the team and league because my job as a televisuion newsman promoted me to weekend news anchor. And our games were Saturday/Sundays. I never worried about striking anybody out (usually couldn't anyway) because I had a GREAT DEFENSE playing behind me...and they were always alert and ready because when I was on the mound, the ball was always smacked into play somewhere...and they delivered. "Bull" was a leader and every team around the league respected the "dashing" Morris Field Rangers. A few other players from those years of the mid-seventies went on to Minor League experiences: Mark Funderburk/Orlando & Minnesota Twins system; Kevin Staley/LA Dodgers system; Bob Falls(later years); Randy Falls; Bobby Reynolds; Timmy and Murphy Morris and others whose names I likely have forgotten. The Rangers were young, incredibly fast, powerful, confident, fearless, well-coached and always took the field with the expectation of winning and then delivering the victory...even when I was on the mound, as rare as it may have been. Many of those guys went on to great non-baseball professional careers including school teachers, educators, coaches, common laborers, public servants. But, "Bull" was at times "the face" of the Rangers, the idol of his teammates and the teacher from whom many guys learned to play the game even better. As we all have, "Bull" faced some challenges, but like the true winner and competitor he was at his core, he overcame those challenges in grand fashion. And in closing, he got his name from his dad who told the story that Bobby was born on the day of that "hit heard round the world." Ed Thompson's favorite major leaguer was "Bobby" Thompson, and his favorite cowboy was Lash LaRue. Thus, on that day of his son's birth, he proclaimed the name for his to be "Bobby LaRue Thompson." He was destined at birth to be great. Now he and his dad, brother "Chubby", manager Herman "Dad" Thomas, and all the other greats from the Triple County League, the Minor Leagues and the Majors share an eternal peace. And yet they live as long as we remember them.

  28. 704_Brave Says:

    Ken,
    Thanks for the insight! You were a trailblazer here in Charlotte too...first African-American news anchor at WBTV if I recall correctly. Any info on why those Meck. Co. semi-pro teams went defunct? I wonder if there are any other such leagues around today?

    You've certainly seen a lot in Charlotte over the years. Thanks for the info on Bobby...it sure has been interesting learning about him and if you have any other tidbits to share, we'd be very appreciative!

    Thanks again

  29. ELIZABETH ALEXANDER Says:

    THOSE WERE THE GOOD TIMES WHEN MY BROTHER-IN-LAW BOBBY THOMPSON WAS PLAYING FOR THE TEXAS RANGERS. HE IS SURELY GOING TO BE MISSED BY THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND THOSE WHO KNEW HIM WHEN HE PLAYED PRO. HE IS LOOKING DOWN ON US AS WE MAKE ALL THE COMMENTS ON HIS CAREER. LOVE YOU BRO MISS YOU.

  30. I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who knew Mr. Thompson for sharing your thoughts on our blog. It's our privilege to get to write about someone who was so clearly loved by his friends and family.

  31. What a great tribute! That's exactly why I like this site so much. Bobby Thompson wasn't a Hall of Famer or an All-Star, but this site digs deeper to unearth the fascinating tidbits that make his baseball story so interesting.

  32. ELIZABETH ALEXANDER Says:

    I AGREE WITH WHAT HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT MY BROTHER-IN-LAW ITS GOOD TO HAVE SOMEONE FAMOUS IN THE FAMILY I MARRIED INTO THE THOMPSON FAMILY THATS WHEN I FIRST GOT INTO BASEBALL THEY WELCOMED ME WITH OPEN ARMS AND I LOVE HIM AND THE FAMILY FOR IT. HE IS GETTING SOME REST NOW AND IN NO PAIN. BRO I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU. THE THOMPSON FAMILY WAS A BASEBALL FAMILY AS SAID BEFORE IT STATED WITH THE DAD EDWARD THOMPSON SR. EDWARD THOMPSON JR. WHOM I WAS MARRIED TO BEFORE HIS DEATH. BOBBY WAS THE ONLY ONE OF THE FAMILY WHO WENT PRO. BUT ALFRED PLAY ALSO AND HAS WROTE A BOOK ABOUT BASEBALL. HE WOULD STILL BE PLAYING IF HE HAD NOT HAD THE ACCIDENT WHICH LEFT HIM PARALYZED.