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.