About Sam Thompson
Samuel Luther Thompson (March 5, 1860 – November 7, 1922) was a 19th century Major League Baseball player. "Big Sam" (6 feet 2 inches, and 200 pounds) was known for his offensive production and was second on the career home runs list at the time of his retirement. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
Thompson's 1887 total of 166 RBIs stood as a Major League record for 34 years until Babe Ruth broke the record in 1921. He was the only 19th-century player to drive in 150 or more runs and he did it twice. His .923 RBIs/Game is still a major league record, and he has the still-standing record of 61 RBIs in 1 month, which he accomplished for the Philadelphia Phillies in August 1895.
Born in Danville, Indiana, Thompson entered the National League in 1885 with the Detroit Wolverines and played his first full season in 1886. An outfielder, Thompson had his breakout season in 1887 when he batted .372 with 118 runs, 203 hits, 11 home runs and 166 RBIs en route to leading the Wolverines to the National League pennant as well as a World Series victory over the St. Louis Browns of the American Association - the other major league at the time. The Wolverines finished the 1888 season in fifth place, losing so much money that the team folded and the players were sold off. Thompson was purchased by the Philadelphia Quakers (known as the Philadelphia Phillies beginning in 1890), for $5,000 cash (equal to $121,815 today). He would play for them until 1898.
Thompson enjoyed his most consistent years from 1889 until 1896, only missing the 100 RBI plateau once (with 90, in 1891) and 100 runs plateau once (with 99 in 1894) while batting .407 in 1894 and leading the league in home runs in 1889 and 1895 (with 20 and 18 respectively). In 1889 he became the first Major League player to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Back problems brought a premature end to Thompson's career, limiting him to 3 games in 1897 and 14 in 1898. After the 1898 season, he left baseball for nearly a decade before briefly returning to play in 8 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1906, when he became one of oldest players to hit a triple. He retired with 1256 runs, 1299 RBIs, a .331 batting average, and 127 home runs which was at the time second only to Roger Connor.
Thompson's great-great-grandson is mandolin master Chris Thile, who wrote a reel entitled "Big Sam Thompson" which is on his solo album Not All Who Wander Are Lost.
Thompson hit for the cycle, playing for the Phillies, on August 17, 1894.
In 1894, Thompson was part of the only all-.400-hitting outfield of all-time. All four Philadelphia outfielders ended the season with a batting average better than .400 (Tuck Turner at .416, Thompson and Ed Delahanty at .407, and Billy Hamilton at .404). Thompson hit .407 despite missing a month with a finger injury which necessitated the amputation of a fingertip. As a team, the 1894 Phillies batted .349.