Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jocko Thompson was unsung WWII hero

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

At Grave in the Netherlands the Maas River is spanned by the Lt. John S. Thompson Bridge, in honor of the 82nd Airborne platoon leader who wrested the span from the German army in September, 1944, then held it until reinforcements could make Allied occupation permanent.

It is surely the only bridge in Europe named for a life-time 6-11 major league pitcher.

This is another instance in which the full story has been told earlier and better. You can check out Gary Bedingfield's blog on the topic at

I'm just here to provide the baseball card perspective and a bit of commentary. 

The little-known baseball hero of World War II can be found on mainstream cards in the 1949, 1950 and 1951 Bowmans sets. He also appears on a couple of 1970s TCMA team sets honoring the 1950 Phillies "Whiz Kids."

Thompson was one of at least four major league pitchers who were World War II veterans of the 82nd Airborne. Also on that list are Bob Porterfield, Ernie White and Hank Grodzicki.

In today's all-volunteer military, there are few professional athletes, Pat Tillman notwithstanding, who have taken time out from, or entirely risked, their lucrative athletic careers to serve. 

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