Henry Curtis Thompson
Nickname: Hank, Ametralladora
Positions: 2b, rf, lf, ss
Teams: Kansas City Monarchs (1943, 1945-1948), military service (1944-1945), Mexican league (1945), major leagues (1947-1949, 1956), minor leagues (1949, 1951, 1957)
Height: 5' 9'' Weight: 171
Born: December 8, 1925, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Died: September 30, 1969, Fresno, California
This hard-hitting Kansas City Monarch was versatile afield, playing both the infield and the outfield but, although he had a good throwing arm, he was only an average fielder. He was fast afield and on the bases, and always a solid hitter, hitting with power and for average. In his first year with the Monarchs, in 1943, as a seventeen-year old youngster, available statistics indicate a .314 batting average with a slugging percentage of .514. Following his rookie year, he entered military service in 1944, and when he was discharged, he split the remainder of the 1945 season between Kansas City and Tampico in the Mexican League, playing largely in Mexico, where he hit .264 but drew a high percentage of walks. Back with the Monarchs in 1946, he played second base and hit .287 while batting leadoff as the Monarchs won the Negro American League pennant, and hit .296 in the ensuing World Series loss to the Newark Eagles.
The next year he moved into the shortstop position in the field and into the third slot in the batting order, hitting .344 during regular season play and gaining a shot at the major leagues with the Browns when he and Monarchs teammate Willard Brown were signed by Bill Veeck. He and Brown were questionable types who didn't fit the Jackie Robinson pattern. After having "a cup of coffee" in the majors and batting .256 in 27 games, he and Brown were unconditionally released. Thompson thought they should have been farmed out for an adjustment period, as the Dodgers had done with Jackie Robinson. But instead, he returned to the Monarchs to hit .344 for the remainder of the season.
In 1948 he hit .375 with a slugging percentage of .633 to earn another chance with the major leagues, this time with the Giants. He began the 1949 season at Jersey City, with Monte Irvin as a teammate, and hit .295 to earn a promotion to the New York Giants. With the Giants he hit .280 and remained with the Giants for eight years as a third baseman-outfielder. He had his best major-league season in 1953, when he hit .302 with 24 home runs. During his nine-year major-league career, Hank played in two World Series, 1951 and 1954, batting .364 in the latter Series victory over the Cleveland Indians. His last season in the majors was 1956, and he played one more season with Minneapolis in the American Association before ending his baseball career.
During his career he played three winter seasons in Cuba, where he earned the nickname "Ametralladora," which means "machine gun." In Cuba he demonstrated consistency, hitting .320, .318, and .321 for the years 1946-1949 while also demonstrating good power and speed. He led the league in RBIs in the middle season to lead Havana to the championship, and led the league in triples in each of the other seasons.
Thompson came from a tough home environment in Dallas, Texas, and as a youngster his mother had to put her rowdy son in reform school. Later in life, after he had begun his baseball career, he shot and killed a man who was trying to force his affections on Thompson's sister. He was sometimes described as a "hoodlum" and continued to carry a gun, even after arriving in the major leagues.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.