Sam Thompson

Samuel Luther Thompson
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1974
Primary team: Philadelphia Phillies
Primary position: Right Fielder

“He was a wonderful friend,” Charlie Bennett said at his funeral. “No one ever quarrelled with Sam. No one ever knew him with all his strength to be rough or brutal. He was always even-tempered, simple and plain.”

During a time when the play was rough and so were many of the players, being recognized as “plain” was complimentary, and only reserved for true gentlemen. Samuel “Big Sam” Thompson spent time over 15 seasons in the Major Leagues protecting that reputation, while also building a name for himself at the plate.

The right fielder’s most impressive numbers were the runs he batted in. In 1887, Thompson had 166 total RBI, a record that stood until Babe Ruth broke it 34 years later. Big Sam was the only player in the 19th century Dead Ball Era to drive in more than 150 runs in a season, and he did it two times. He currently holds two records in Major League Baseball: his .923 RBI per game are more than any other in the history of baseball; and he also holds the mark for the most RBI in a month with 61. The left-handed hitter did that in August of 1895 for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Thompson broke into the big leagues in 1885 with the Detroit Wolverines. In just his second full season in 1887, he had his best year in leading the Wolverines to the National League pennant and a World Series win over the St. Louis Browns. The slugger batted .372, scored 118 runs, drove in 166, and his 203 hits were the first time any player had cracked 200 in a season. Also included in the record 203 were 11 home runs.

Between 1889 and 1896 Thompson failed to reach 100 or more RBI only once when he had 90 in 1891, and he missed the 100-run plateau also just one time in 1894 when he scored 99 runs. Big Sam became the first player to ever have 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season when he did it in 1889.

The 6’2”, 200 lb. fielder batted a career-high .407 in 1894, even though he missed a month with an injury that required the amputation of his fingertip. He twice led the National League in home runs and RBI.

Back problems took Thompson out of the game early in 1898, though after a near decade-long hiatus he made an attempt at coming back, playing in eight games for the Detroit Tigers in 1906. Though he had been gone for nearly 10 years, his return allowed him enough time to become one of the oldest players to ever hit a triple, doing so at age 46.

Thompson retired with 1405 games under his belt, a lifetime average of .336 with 126 home runs and 222 stolen bases. When he left the game, he was second on the career home runs list.

"One potentially significant yet unidentified source even credited Big Sam, as a giant fielder, with having originated the one-hop throw to the plate. "
Bob Broeg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 16, 1974

Career stats

Year Inducted: 1974
Primary Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Position Played: Right Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Birth place: Danville, Indiana
Birth year: 1860
Died: 1922, Detroit, Michigan
Played for:
Detroit Wolverines (1885-1888)
Philadelphia Phillies (1889-1898)
Detroit Tigers (1906)
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG