Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1953 Topps Project - Hank Thompson

One of the very first projects I began when I started this blog back in January of 2008 was to collect the 1953 Topps baseball set.  By the end of that first year, I had posted 33 cards from the set including my 3 best cards...

...Yankees' shortstop Phil Rizzuto...

...Hall-of-Fame lefty Warren Spahn...

...and the iconic Satchell Paige card, which to this day is one of my most prized sports cards.  After that fast start though, things definitely died down.  I posted just 4 of these in 2009, another 5 in 2010, and then none since.  I've still picked up a card or two towards the set from time to time, but the posts stopped 42 cards in, back in the summer of 2010.

Now that my pursuit of the '80s Topps hockey run is nearing the end, I've turned my focus back to working away at this classic baseball set.  I've picked up a handful of '53s over the last couple of months alone, including a couple of key cards, so it's high time I got back into the swing of things here.

Today's card is #20 in the set, Henry Thompson of the New York Giants.

Hank played his first professional season in 1943 at age 17, for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.  In 1944 he was drafted into the Army, and fought for a couple of years in World War II as a machine gunner.  He returned to the Monarchs after being discharged from the military in the summer of 1946.

Hank's first big league experience would come in 1947, the same year that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and appeared with the Brooklyn Dodgers to begin the season.  On July 17th, 1947, just a couple of months after Jackie's first game, Hank took the field for the St. Louis Browns.  He was the first African American to play for the Browns organization, and was one of the first African Americans to appear in an MLB game period.  Unfortunately, his numbers were not that great, and after hitting just .256 with 5 RBI over 27 games he was cut by the team.  Thompson returned to the Monarchs, but not for long.

On July 4th, 1949 Hank was called up to the New York Giants.  A few days later, on July 8th, he and Monte Irvin debuted for the club, and together they became the first African American players to appear for the Giants.  Since he had played with the Browns a couple of years prior, Thompson actually became the first African American to play in both the American and National Leagues.  He would go on to appear in over 900 career games over the span of 8 seasons with New York.

This particular card is especially cool, because 1953 was arguably the best single season of Hank's career.  He hit .302 (the only time he would top the .300 mark in a season), belted 24 home runs and 74 RBI, and recorded an impressive .567 slugging percentage that year.

Sadly, Thompson did not live a long life after his baseball days were behind him.  He was convicted of armed robbery in the early '60s and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  He was paroled after just four years, but died in September of 1969 after suffering a seizure.  He was just 43 years old.

Set Progress:  43 of 274 (16%)

4 comments:

Dave H said...

What a beautiful looking set. That will be a gem when it is completed!

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks Dave! It's a beast for sure, will definitely be a lifelong quest. I'm getting there slowly but surely though!

Also, I didn't forget about getting you my UD and OPC want lists, hope to have something soon...

Captain Canuck said...

very cool... if I remember right, this was the way I found your blog waaaaay back then.

shoeboxlegends said...

Captain, I'm pretty sure you're right, I remember you commenting on some of these a looong time ago!

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