Thomas Sampson (Toots)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 180 lb.
Tommy Sampson was a four-time Negro League All-Star at second base.
Sampson left school when he was 17 years old to work in the coal mines. While trying to get a coal car back on track one day, he lost part of his right index finger, which would affect his throwing ability. On the weekends, he would play semipro baseball. His fine work on the sandlots earned him a contract from the Birmingham Black Barons. Due to his unusual career path, he did not debut in the Negro Leagues until he was age 27.
Tommy hit .273 for the Black Barons as a rookie in 1940. He made the 1940 East-West Game as the starting second baseman for the West, hitting 8th. He went 0 for 2 before being replaced by Marshall Riddle in a 11-0 loss. Toots fell to .160 in 1941. He still got the start in the 1941 East-West Game, moving up to 7th in the order. He did not get an at-bat that day, getting hit by pitch by Terris McDuffie in his lone plate appearance and making an error afield before giving way to Jimmy Ford in a 8-3 defeat.
The Calhoun native took a major stride forward in 1942. He hit .354, third in the Negro American League behind Barney Serrell and Joe Greene. His four homers tied Greene for second behind Willard Brown and his three steals tied Brown and Leroy Morney for the lead as a multi-dimensional threat. In the first 1942 East-West Game, he hit 7th for the West and went 0 for 3 with an error in a 5-2 loss; Art Pennington pinch-hit for him in the 9th. In the second 1942 East-West Game, he hit 6th and went 2 for 3 but made another error in a 9-2 defeat.
Sampson was 30 years old in 1943 but still going strong, hitting .358, 5th in the NAL. He hit 7th in the 1943 East-West Game and went 1 for 3 with a RBI single to score Neil Robinson against Dave Barnhill in a 2-1 win, his only win in an East-West Game. He went 9 for 26 in the 1943 Negro World Series, which Birmingham lost to the Homestead Grays.
Tommy hit .227 in 1944 but led the league with 7 home runs. He also had 7 triples, tying Jesse Douglas for 4th, and stole 16 bases, fourth behind Sam Jethroe, Artie Wilson and Neil Robinson. Birmingham made the 1944 Negro World Series, but tragedy struck when Sampson broke his right leg in a car accident (he was behind the wheel); four other teammates were hurt, but not as seriously. Sampson missed the Series and never became a starter again.
Sampson remained with Birmingham in 1945 then became the manager in 1946. The club went 35-25, finishing second in the NAL behind the Kansas City Monarchs. Sampson also guided them to a second-place finish in 1947, behind the Cleveland Buckeyes. Piper Davis succeeded him as manager of the Black Barons but Sampson made one more big contribution to the team, recommending Willie Mays to Davis to help start Mays on his marvelous career.