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Jun 25

Sam Thompson Almost Comes to Washington

Samuel Luther Thompson the tall 6-02 rightfielder was one of the top players of his time. He was a run producing machine.

Thompson first played for the National League Detroit Wolverines in 1885. In September, the small market Wolverines shocked the baseball establishment by purchasing Dan Brouthers, Hardy Richardson, Jack Rowe and Deacon White. Detroit finished in second place in 1886 but won the pennant in 1887 finishing just ahead of Philadelphia.

While the team was successful on the field it was unable to generate the revenues needed to keep the talented team together. To overcome this in the fall of 1887, Detroit President Frederick Stearns, proposed a new plan, dubbed “The Percentage Plan,” that would allow small market teams like Detroit to get 30% of the receipts on the road along with a guarantee of $200. It would have been a great boon to the small market clubs

The plan would be voted on at the League meeting in November. Philadelphia and Boston were prepared to fight it while Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis were supporting it. Stearns thought he could count on New York, and Chicago and he hoped Washington would too.
It was rumored that Pittsburgh’s vote had been secured with the trade of Fred Dunlap, the well regarded second baseman. Indianapolis wanted Larry Twitchell from Detroit, and Washington. Washington was said to be interested in a player or two.

On the second day of the meeting a compromise was reached. Detroit got a partial victory; the percentage for visiting clubs was raised to 25% with a guarantee of $150.

Detroit soldiered on for another season and then Stearns was forced to disband the team.

What was Washington offered? At the end of November the Boston Globe broke the story, “One of the echoes of the late League meeting is that Detroit agreed to give Washington Sam Thompson for a vote on the percentage question, and that when the percentage, with Washington’s help, carried, Detroit repudiated the bargain, on the ground that the 30 per cent, resolution was not adopted.

No doubt Sam Thompson would have been a major improvement for Washington and with Dummy Hoy and Walter Wilmot in the outer gardens Washington would have a top-notch outfield. With a higher gate percentage Washington would have been in a better competitive position too. But it still had Walter Hewitt at the helm and that might have been too much of a challenge to overcome.