There’ve been hundreds of players to patrol the outfield in the 132 years of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, Greg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox were among those who enabled the Phillies to compete for National League pennants. Luzinski and Maddox contributed to the 1980 World Series-winning Phillies.
But what about right-fielder Samuel Luther Thompson? Big Sam spent 10 of his 15 seasons with the Phillies (1889-1898). Playing in what had been known as the Dead Ball Era, Thompson was one of the first true home run hitters in professional baseball.
Thompson has been selected as one of 15 new inductees into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Sheraton Society Hill plans on holding the induction ceremony Nov. 12. This hall of fame recognizes accomplishments of athletes who grew up in the Greater Philadelphia Area or played sports in Philadelphia.
Big Sam was the first player in Major League Baseball history to send 20 baseballs over the fence, doing so in his first season in Philadelphia (1889). Two seasons before joining the Phillies, Thompson was the first big-leaguer to post 200 hits in a season by recording 203. He garnered two home run crowns and two RBI titles during his career.
While playing for the Phillies (1,031 games), Thompson batted .333 (1,469-for-4,413) with 925 runs, 272 doubles, 106 triples, 95 long-balls, 957 RBIs, and 189 stolen bases. He was the second player in Phillies history to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, homer) by tallying three singles, one double, one triple, and one four-bagger in a 29-4 Phillies victory at Louisville on Aug. 17, 1894. Thompson also had been known for his strong arm by recording 202 outfields assists as a Phillie, including 32 in 1891.
During his career with Detroit (NL), the Phillies, and the American League Detroit Tigers, Big Sam compiled a .331 batting average (1,979-for-5,984) in 1,407 games with 1,256 runs, 340 doubles, 160 triples, 126 home runs, 1,299 RBIs, and 229 steals. Thompson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. He passed away on Nov. 7, 1922 at the age of 62.
Along with Thompson, the other posthumous inductees into the 2015 Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame are basketball great Walt Hazzard, Roman Catholic High School basketball coach Billy Markward, soccer star Benny McLaughlin, boxer Bob Montgomery, tennis champion Dick Williams, and former Philadelphia 76ers public address announcer Dave Zinkoff. Maddox, former Philadelphia Flyer Rick MacLeish, former Philadelphia Eagles halfback Tim Brown, Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, Flyers announcer Lou Nolan, North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton, Navy women’s lacrosse coach Cindy Timchal, and former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil were selected as living inductees.
*Information about Thompson’s Phillies and major league career can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.