From BR Bullpen
Henry Curtis Thompson
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 174 lb.
- High School Jackson (CA) High School
- Debut July 17, 1947
- Final Game September 30, 1956
- Born December 8, 1925 in Oklahoma City, OK USA
- Died September 30, 1969 in Fresno, CA USA
 Biographical Information
Hank Thompson was a Negro Leaguer and one of the earliest black ballplayers in the major leagues. He was an above-average hitter and fielder in a nine-year career in the bigs. He appeared in the 1951 World Series and the 1954 World Series. He also was in trouble with the law a lot.
 Historical Firsts and Records
When he first faced Don Newcombe on April 20, 1949, Thompson became part of the first all-black batter/pitcher match-up in the majors. When he played in the outfield with Willie Mays and Monte Irvin, he became part of the first all-black outfield in major league baseball. Thompson was the first black player to appear in a second major league. When he and Willard Brown appeared in a line-up together for the 1947 St. Louis Browns, they were the first blacks to appear in a lineup together since the days of Fleet Walker and Welday Walker in the 19th Century. When he played against the Cleveland Indians and Larry Doby in 1947, Thompson and Doby became the first blacks to play a major league game against each other. Thompson was also the first black player for the St. Louis Browns (he was the first black Brown).
 Career with the Monarchs and the Browns
Thompson started his professional career with the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team, and played several years for them, interrupted by World War II. He was a gunner at the Battle of the Bulge and had risen to sergeant by the time he was discharged in 1946. In 1947 he came from the Monarchs to the majors.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in April 1947. Thompson came up three months later in July 1947 as the first black player for the St. Louis Browns (Larry Doby also came up in July 1947, and beat Hank by a few days as the first black player in the American League). He appeared in 27 games for the Browns, batting .256, and was later released.
 With the Monarchs again, in Cuba and with Jersey City
He played for the Monarchs again in 1948, hitting .375, and in the winter of 1948-49, Alex Pompez, acting as a scout for the New York Giants, saw Thompson and Monte Irvin playing in Cuba and signed them. The two were sent to play at Jersey City in 1949.
Thompson slugged .565 in Jersey City in his 68 games that year, and spent half the season in the majors, showing an ability to draw walks and hit for some power. From then on, he was a major leaguer except for a brief period in 1951, and after his major league career, in 1957. Both of those later stints were with the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.
 In the Majors
Thompson was a multi-talented player who could play a variety of positions. He was a second baseman a couple of years in the majors, was primarily a center fielder one year, and otherwise mostly played third base. As a hitter, he drew walks well, twice finishing in the top five in the league in walks. He hit 20+ home runs three times, and was seventh in the league in slugging in 1953. He hit over .300 once and was among the triples leaders twice. He was twice among the leaders for hit-by-pitch and once among the leaders for sacrifice flies.
In the 1954 World Series he had an OBP of .611.
The most similar players based on the similarity scores method (through 2008) don't seem to be good comparisons because all (except Whitey Kurowski) have lower Adjusted OPS scores. Thompson has a higher Adjusted OPS than ten of the third basemen in the Hall of Fame, although his career was much shorter than most of them. Perhaps the best comparison is Pete Rose, who also had an OPS+ of exactly 118 (in a much longer career), who also played third, second, and outfield, and who also had trouble with the law - if you toss out some of Pete's best and worst years, and keep nine good seasons, that would be fairly close to Hank Thompson's performance.
 Later Minor League and Winter Baseball Experiences
When he was briefly in the minors in 1951 with Minneapolis, he slugged .774 in 14 games. After his major league days he went back to Minneapolis for one year.
 The Law
Thompson had many run-ins with the law. He was arrested a couple of times as a teenager (once acquitted). He killed a man in 1948, but it was called justifiable homicide. He also was accused of auto theft and striking a woman, but got off on both charges. He robbed a bar in 1961 but was given probation after the judge read letters from baseball executives. In 1963 he robbed a liquor store and was given ten years in prison, of which he served four years before being paroled.
 Later Years
He then worked as a playground director outside of Fresno, CA.
In September 1969 he had a heart seizure and died at age 43. He died on the thirteenth anniversary of his last game in the major leagues.
 Notable Achievements
Sources include: Biography of Hank Thompson, Thompson page at the NLBPA, African American Pioneers of Baseball, Hank Thompson Wikipedia article viewed 2-24-09, Baseball in Wartime's Hank Thompson article and the SABR Minor Leagues Database.