Monday, May 30, 2011

#168 - Danny Thompson

Danny Thompson takes a cut at Yankee Stadium which at one point was nearly his home park. It looks like a nice day. I don't think there were too many of those in the Bronx in 1973. It must have been a tough season for Danny as immediately before it he was diagnosed with leukemia. The disease would overhang the rest of his career and eventually prove fatal but Danny rose above it and almost never missed any time due to what must have been nearly crippling pain. He took solace in living his dream as a ball player and that dream doesn't get any better than on a sunny day.

Danny Thompson was an Oklahoma kid all the way - although he was born in Kansas - as a high school athlete in Capron and an All-American shortstop at Oklahoma State. He played in both his sophomore and junior years at OSU and was all-Big Eight both seasons. He won his All-America distinction in '68 based on his .349, five homer season, the year he led his team to the CWS. He was drafted in the first round that spring by the Twins  after shooting down the Yankees ('65), the Reds ('67) and the Senators (earlier in '68). Danny got off to a pretty good start, topping .280 in Single A ball in '68 and .300 in Double A the next year. While his average got knocked down pretty good at Triple A in '70, he only made five errors in 58 games and was called up to Minnesota to help fill the gap at second due to Rod Carew's injury. He also got into the playoffs that season. In '71 Carew was healthy again and though Danny stuck on the major roster he rarely played, spending nearly all his field time at third. In '72 the Twins sent Leo Cardenas to California freeing up the shortstop spot and Danny responded with his best offensive season as the new solo guy there. In '73 he lost some playing time to Jerry Terrell and the average came in a bunch.

In '74 Thompson won the Hutch Award, given annually to a player demonstrating courage in the face of adversity. That was the season his illness became more publicly recognized.. He dealt with it more than admirably and after another split season with Terrell in '74 he led all AL shortstops with a .270 average in '75. In June of '76 he was traded to the Rangers with Bert Blyleven for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, Bill Singer, and some cash. For the Rangers he backed up at second and third base. Shortly after that season ended, though, the leukemia caught up to him and he passed away that December at age 29. For his career Danny hit .248 and posted a .276 in the minors. He hit .125 in his three post-season games.

After Thompson's death former teammate Harmon Killebrew and his business partner Ralph Harding began a memorial golf tournament in Danny's name that is in its 34th year. The site for the tournament is linked to here. It has been a rousing success raising many millions of dollars for cancer research.

Danny gets star bullets for his first minor league season and has another cartoon detailing his off-season work. Unofficially I am pretty sure that theme has been number one for these cartoons so far.

Tiant and Thompson are pretty close alphabetically. Does it help? Yup:

1. Thompson and Luis Tiant '70 Twins.

No comments:

Post a Comment