Samuel Luther "Big Sam" Thompson (March 5, 1860 – November 7, 1922) was an American professional baseball player from 1884 to 1898 and with a brief comeback in 1906. At 6 feet, 2 inches, the Indiana native was one of the larger players of his day and was known for his prominent handlebar mustache. He played as a right fielder in Major League Baseball for the Detroit Wolverines (1885–88), Philadelphia Phillies (1889-1898) and Detroit Tigers (1906). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.
Thompson had a .331 career batting average and was one of the most prolific run producers in baseball history. His career Run batted in (RBI) to games played ratio of .923 (1,305 RBIs in 1,410 games) remains the highest in major league history. In 1895, Thompson averaged 1.44 RBIs per game, and his 166 RBIs in 1887 (in only 127 games) remained the major league record until 1921 when Babe Ruth collected 168 (albeit in 152 games). Thompson still holds the major league record for most RBIs in a single month with 61 in August 1894 while playing for the Phillies. Manager Bill Watkins in 1922 called Thompson "the greatest natural hitter of all time."
Defensively, Thompson was known to have one of the strongest arms of any outfielder in the early decades of the game. He still ranks among the all-time major league leaders with 61 double plays from the outfield (16th all time) and 283 outfield assists (12th all time). Thompson also had good speed on the base paths and, in 1889, he became the first major league player to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.
By Dean Hanley
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