As we look back on San Francisco Giants Franchise History, we come across the third player to break the color barrier. On July 8, 1949, Hank Thompson and Monte Irvin would become the first African-Americans to play for the New York Giants in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
The San Francisco Giants have a rich history that spans over 130 years, but it was more than two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier that the Giants finally did the same.
Hank Thompson, who began his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1947, was the third man to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball after Robinson and Larry Doby.
When Thompson joined the Giants in 1949, he would become the first African-American player to integrate two different teams, and the first to play in both the American and National League.
Considering the time and the place is significant. The game was at Ebbets Field, where Jackie broke the color barrier and was a star by 1949. The Giants manager was Leo Durocher, the same manager as Jackie had in 1947.
At the age of 17, Thompson played right field in his first season with the Kansas City Monarchs on the Negro Leagues. The next season, he was drafted into the Army. Thompson was a machine gunner with the 1695th Combat Engineers at the historic Battle of the Bulge. Sergeant Thompson was discharged on June 20, 1946, and returned to the Monarchs.
The Monarchs played in the championship upon his return against the Newark Eagles, which including both Irvin and Doby. After the season, Thompson joined the Satchel Paige All-Stars who barnstormed the country against Bob Feller’s All-Stars.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 and a few months later, Thompson and teammate Willard Brown, were sold to the St. Louis Browns. On July 17, 1947, Thompson became the third Negro League player to play in the Major Leagues.
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Thompson had some firsts on his resume as well during his career. He faced Doby on August 9, 1949, making it the first time Black players of opposing teams appear on the field at the same time. Another first occurred when Thompson batted against Dodger Don Newcombe. It was the first time in Major League history that a Black pitcher faced a Black batter.
Thompson struggled with the Browns and was eventually sold back to the Monarchs. He remained with the Monarchs through the 1948 season.
He joined the Jersey City Giants, a farm club of the New York Giants, in 1949 and on July 4, of that year, he was called up with Irvin. He played primarily second base for the Giants.
In the 1951 World Series, however, he played right field with Mays in center field and Irvin in left, creating the first all-Black outfield in Major League history. Overall, Thompson would spent eight seasons with the Giants.
The left-handed hitter enjoyed his best season in 1953 when he hit .302 with 24 home runs.
In the 1954 World Series, Thompson slashed .364/.611/.455 for an OPS of 1.066.
Thompson retired after the 1956 season.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to remember players like Hank Thompson, who had to fight against prejudice and injustice as much as anyone else.