Thompson, Henry - HankHENRY ‘HANK’ THOMPSON
Position: Outfielder, 1943, 1946 - 1948
Weight: 170 lbs.
B/T: Left, Right
Born: 1925 in Oklahoma City, OK
Died: 1969 in Fresno, CA
Henry Thompson was the hard-hitting thumper for the Kansas City Monarchs, playing both infield and outfield. He possessed a powerful throwing arm and covered the outfield pasture with grace. Thompson was well-liked by his teammates, but trouble also liked him.
At 17, Thompson played rightfield in his first season with the Monarchs, batting around .300. The following year, in March, he was drafted into the Army. Thompson was a machine gunner with the 1695th Combat Engineers at the historic Battle of the Bulge. Sergeant Thompson was discharged on June 20, 1946, and returned to the Monarchs, who were in the midst of capturing the league title. After winning the American League pennant the Monarchs faced the National League’s Newark Eagles, led by Leon Day, Max Manning, Larry Doby and Monte Irvin. During the seven-game series, Thompson hit .296, in a losing effort.
After the season, Thompson joined the Satchel Paige All-Stars who barnstormed the country against Bob Feller’s All-Stars in separate private luxury planes. Thompson claimed his share for 17 days’ work was an amazing $7,500.
With the start of the 1947 season, history was made when Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A few months later, Thompson was informed by the Monarchs’ traveling secretary Dizzy Dismukes that his contract, along with teammate Willard Brown, had been sold to the lowly St. Louis Browns.
On July 17, Thompson became the third Negro League player to play in the Major Leagues. He went hitless, with an error, as the Philadelphia A’s trounced his Browns, 16-2. Hank spent 36 frustrating days with the Browns and hit only .256, in 78 at bats, playing in 27 games, mostly at second base. On August 23, Manager Muddy Ruel released Thompson and Brown, and both men rejoined the Monarchs. Thompson remained with the Monarchs through the 1948 season.
Thompson batted .375 with 56 RBI’s, in 267 at-bats, in 1948. He finished third in the batting race behind future New York Giants star Artie Wilson’s .402 and the Chicago White Sox’ Bob Boyd’s .376, but ahead of teammate Willard Brown’s .374. Thompson also led the Negro American League in steals with 20.
On June 9, 1949, he married Havana beauty Maria Quesada, in Brooklyn, N.Y. The next month on July 5, the New York Giants called him and Monte Irvin up from the Giants’ Jersey City farm club. Thompson received $2,500 over the league minimum of $5,000. By signing with the Giants, Thompson earned a unique place in baseball trivia, as the first Negro Leaguer to play in the National and American leagues.
Other trivia first included his appearance with Indian Larry Doby in an August 9 doubleheader, making it the first time black players of opposing teams appear on the field at the same time. Another first occurred when Thompson batted against Dodger Don Newcombe, making it was the first time in Major League history that black pitcher faced a black batter. Also, in the 1951 World Series, he was forced to play right field in place of injured Don Mueller, with Willie Mays and Irvin, creating the first all-black outfield in Major League history.
Thompson spent the next eight seasons with the Giants, compiling a lifetime batting average of .267. In 1957, his contract was sold to Minneapolis of the American Association, where he finished his career. Thompson played in two World Series, 1951 and 1954, hitting .364 in the latter Series against the Cleveland Indians.