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Hank You For All You Do

This being Father's Day it strikes me as appropriate to try to track down the walk-off history of my father's favorite baseball player.

That would be former New York Giants third baseman Hank Thompson.

For those unfamiliar, Thompson hit 129 home runs in nine big league seasons, playing from 1947 to 1956. His first 27 games were with the St. Louis Browns in the same season that Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. The remainder of his career was with the Giants. He was an everyday player for five years and would fall under the "good, but not great player" category. Statistically speaking, his modern-day comparisons are the likes of Casey Blake and Joe Crede.

Thompson had some pretty serious legal issues in his lifetime, and I'll leave it to you to research those if you like. I'll tell you about one of a more minor nature that led to his becoming my father's favorite.

In January, 1953, Thompson had a near-accident while driving in the middle of the night, in upper Manhattan. Thompson got out of his car to check on the other driver, a cabbie, who panicked. The cabbie, seeing this large man coming at him grabbed, of all things, a baseball bat, got out of his car, and whacked Thompson on the head.

Thompson ended up in the hospital overnight after getting stitched up. Who was in the bed next to him in the hospital, there for a minor medical matter? My grandfather.

As my father tells it, a few months later, he and his father went to a Giants game. They went down to the Giants dugout and asked if Thompson was there. Thompson recognized my grandfather, and shook my fathers hand through the fence separating the stands from the field.
So while my father was always a big Willie Mays fan, Thompson was best in his book.

Thompson's top moment as a favorite to other fans came on June 15, 1954. The Giants were even in the National League standings at the time, but it was on this day that they would take control of matters.

The Reds were not an easy opponent though. They led 3-2 into the ninth inning after scoring twice in the eighth (a go-ahead single by future Met Roy McMillan put Cincinnati ahead.

Reds manager Birdie Tebbets skated through the home ninth very carefully, using three pitchers. The last was lefty Jackie Collum, brought in to face the lefthanded swinging Thompson with two on and two out.

Thompson, by newspaper accounts, got ahead in the count, 2-0, than clubbed a three-run home run over the short fence in right field, the second and final walk-off home run in his career.

The newspapers note that it was the Giants 10th straight night win. More importantly, it gave them sole posession of first place, something they would not relinquish for the remainder of the season, en route to a World Series title. Thompson played an integral role in that too, hitting .364 with seven walks and a .611 on-base percentage in the unlikely four-game sweep of the Indians.

True Metophiles know...45 years ago Sunday, my father attended a doubleheader between the Mets and Phillies (he still has the ticket stub). In the opener, Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the Mets.


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