Groundhog Thompson

From BR Bullpen

Frank R. Thompson

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 2", Weight 135-150 lb.

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Groundhog Thompson was a Negro League pitcher for ten seasons. Thompson's appearance (far from handsome) drew considerable notice, just like Don Mossi in the majors or Agapito Mayor in Cuba. He had a chipped tooth, a harelip and walleye and was short and squat.

Thompson debuted with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1945. He was signed by Abe Saperstein. When Thompson was first called in to pitch, in a game in July, he was greeted by laughter from a crowd not used to such a tiny hurler. He retired the first six batters he faced to convince the fans he was a real player, not an Eddie Gaedel-type stunt. The Louisiana native played in the '45 California Winter League but statistics are unavailable.

Frank signed with the Homestead Grays for 1946 and became a big crowd draw due to his stature and appearance. Teammate Josh Gibson, then in his final season, joked that Thompson was on Gibson's "All-Ugly" team. Groundhog was only 2-7 his first year with the Grays but improved to 7-3 in 1947. He saw reduced action in 1948, when Homestead beat Birmingham to take the 1948 Negro World Series, the last Negro World Series to be played.

Another notable anecdote involving Thompson took place on the Grays' team bus. He got into an argument with Luke Easter over a card game. Easter, who was 14 inches taller and almost twice as heavy, threatened to hit Thompson. Frank responded by pulling a knife and telling Easter that he would "cut you down to my size."

Thompson played for the Memphis Red Sox from 1949 in 1951. James Riley lists him with both Memphis and Birmingham each year from 1952-1954.

In the 1952 East-West Game, Thompson was the starting pitcher for the East, having gone 10-4 up to the break. He had a day to forget, giving up seven runs (three earned) on seven hits, two walks and a wild pitch in only two innings while striking out one. Ted Richardson relieved him after he allowed six runs with no outs in the third; Richardson and Wilmer Harris would blank the West the rest of the way, but the East took a 7-3 loss, with Thompson the principal figure in the defeat.

Groundhog had a big year in 1953. He led the Negro American League in wins (14-6), games pitched (23), innings (152) and strikeouts (113) and was second in ERA (2.31, behind Harris), complete games (14) and winning percentage.

Thompson threw a fastball, curveball and sinker.

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