Carl Thompson (

Carl Thompson

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Carl Thompson ( a two-month roller coaster. University of Georgia star Carl Thompson1 set a collegiate record by striking out 22 Auburn Tigers in a regulation nine-inning game on April 6, 1912. Less than two weeks later, he was suspended by school administrators for unexcused absences, keeping Thompson from the annual showdown against their intrastate rivals, John Heisman’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Thompson soon proceeded directly from the Athens campus to the American League’s New York Highlanders, notching a solid debut on June 5 for a bad team.

Thompson pitched poorly in six other games for New York in 1912 and never returned to the majors. Four years later, he turned his back on professional baseball, working in the car, soft drink, and horse racing businesses.

Thomas Carl Thompson was born on November 7, 1889, in Spring City, Tennessee (roughly 60 miles northeast of Chattanooga). He was the second of six children in the family of Thomas H. Thompson and Metta “Mettie” (Caldwell) Thompson. Thomas the elder’s profession is not known, but Carl’s grandfather, John Wesley Thompson, was a Methodist preacher turned physician. Carl’s brothers Walter (1891) and Earl (1895) both died when Carl was very young, and father Thomas passed away in 1899. According to the 1900 and 1910 censuses, widow Metta and her four remaining children lived with her in Spring City.2 Along with Carl, they were Homer – who caught the final inning for the Highlanders in 1912, his lone big-league appearance – Alfred, and Lois.

Carl pitched for Baylor, a Chattanooga prep school, in 1908, throwing a perfect game in May.3 Homer joined after the beginning of the season as a catcher.4 The brothers later formed a formidable battery in Tennessee amateur circles. Carl played on a Gainesville, Georgia team during the summer of 1909 that went 31-9 and claimed the state amateur title.5 Carl and Homer both enrolled at the University of Georgia in the fall of 1909 and pledged Kappa Alpha fraternity.

By spring 1910, a college baseball preseason preview labeled Carl “one of the promising candidates for hurling honors.” The description continued, “he and his brother, Homer, have worked for several seasons, as the crack battery of that section of the state. He is a right-hander and is reputed to be the heftiest amateur twirler who has been at Georgia in some time.”6 Thompson, a right hander, stood 5-feet-9 and weighed 170 pounds.

The American League’s New York Highlanders trained in Athens, home of the University of Georgia, in both 1910 and 1911, with the two squads holding exhibitions against each other. Hal Chase, the star first baseman who became New York’s skipper at the tail end of 1910, managed the university team during 1910 spring training, before handing the squad over to new coach Frank Anderson, an alumnus. Thompson struck out 14 in a 4-2 loss to Vanderbilt on April 20. In a 10-3 win over Auburn on May 14, the box score simply listed Georgia’s battery as the “Thompson Brothers.”7

Carl shut out the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2-0 on one scratch hit over six innings on May 20.8 The report of the rain-halted game proclaimed, “It was a Thompson day all the way through … between them they did things to the Tech team that should not be chronicled. … Eight Tech batters fell a victim to the deceptions of C. Thompson and his brother ably assisted him by catching Tech runners off first with a lightning throw from the plate.”9 Coach Anderson named Carl to his All-S.I.A.A. (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) team for 1910.10 When not in school, Carl worked as a bookkeeper at a cup factory, according to the 1910 census.

Shortly before the 1911 Bulldogs season, they squared off against Chase’s Highlanders in an exhibition in Athens. Thompson started, allowing eight hits and six runs over five innings, but he did strike out four professionals in New York’s 9-3 victory.11 Six days later, Thompson struck out 16 Clemson batters in a 3-0 shutout.12 He went 7-2 on the season, striking out on average 13 batters per game.13 Thompson’s second defeat, to Bill “Mary” Calhoun and Georgia Tech, 2-1, on May 12, was avenged the very next day with a 6-2 win.14 In the two Tech games, “Tommie” struck out 17 and walked only one. Outfielder Tinsley “Rucker” Ginn and first baseman Tim Bowden also were starters for the Bulldogs.

Both Carl and Homer were selected by coach Anderson as well as Tech coach John Heisman – for whom the college football trophy was named – to each’s “All-Southern” team for 1911.15 Anderson took it a step further, commenting, “Now, gentlemen of the jury, the best of them all is Thompson of Georgia…He is as steady in the pitcher’s box as the rock of Gibraltar and above all has confidence in himself…With all due respect to (the rest), he is the best man who ever worked for an S.I.A.A. team. Think it over.”16

After the 1911 collegiate season, the Highlanders, via scout Arthur Irwin, visited Athens to try to sign Thompson, but the fireballer rebuffed the overtures.17 Even before the 1912 season, it was reported that the Highlanders were after both Thompson brothers. One M.T. O’Callaghan, a friend of New York club president Frank Farrell, was a manager of the University of Georgia squad and had returned from New York with contracts for Carl and Homer to sign. However, they asserted that they would not sign until after they completed studies in May 1912.18

Returning to Athens for a third year, Carl’s collegiate-record 22-strikeout performance against Auburn came in a 6-1 victory on April 6.19 He struck out the side in the first, third, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings. The “opposing batters stood like dummies at the plate and fanned. Half of them were too fooled to move a muscle.”20

Five days later, he fanned 12 in a 12-inning, 2-2 tie with the University of Michigan.21 Later that month, he struck out 19, with only one walk, in a 2-1, 11-inning victory over Trinity.22 On April 29, Thompson and Georgia fell 5-1 to future Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.23 He later shut out North Carolina A&M (now N.C. State) 2-0 on May 2; five days later, he blanked Washington and Lee, 3-0, on one hit over six innings.

That, unfortunately, would be his last collegiate game. A week later, Thompson was suspended for unexcused class absences by the university administration, making him ineligible for their much-anticipated three-game series against Heisman and Georgia Tech. The brothers had attended a house party. When “yanked before the faculty Carl didn’t have a half-decent alibi.” Brother Homer, however, “made a better showing and was reinstated.”24

Even without their ace, the Bulldogs nonetheless swept their rivals in the three games. Even the great Heisman, in selecting his All-S.I.A.A. team, acknowledged that Thompson was the “very best pitcher of the year” and “is ripe for much faster company.”25

The Highlanders signed Thompson in late May 1912, in a transaction facilitated by Irwin. Thompson fully expected to be assigned to the Yanks’ farm team, the Atlanta Crackers of the Class A Southern Association – it was close by, and Crackers president Frank Erwin “Fatty” Callaway was a Georgia baseball alumnus.26 Instead, Carl joined the Highlanders in Detroit on June 1.27

Upon arrival, Thompson impressed New York’s new manager, Harry Wolverton, in practice with his “fine assortment of curves.”28 He made his major-league debut on June 5 with four shutout innings in relief of Jack Quinn in a 7-0 loss to Cleveland, fanning Joe Birmingham, the first batter he faced.29 Thompson thus became only the second University of Georgia ballplayer to reach the majors, following Claud Derrick (of the 1908 S.I.A.A. championship squad). Regarding Thompson’s debut, Harry Glaser of the New York Evening Journal observed: “Thompson uses a fast drop and out curve. His main dependence is a change of pace, possessing the ability to mix them in a deceiving manner. Speed he also has in plenty…. his big-league debut could not have been more promising under the circumstances.”30 Sporting Life’s June 15, 1912, issue stated, “During the sojourn in the Forest City (Cleveland) a young recruit, Carl Thompson, was given a chance to show what he possessed in the pitching line. The youngster performed most credibly and will likely receive another chance in the near future.”31

It was all downhill from there. Thompson surrendered eight runs over 7 2/3 innings in relief of Hippo Vaughn on June 12, five more runs on June 22, and six runs on June 26 in relief of Quinn. He ended June with his first start, a defeat, at Boston on June 29, allowing two runs over the first two innings.

The Highlanders sent Thompson to the Brockton (Massachusetts) Shoemakers of the Class B New England League in July.32 Carl went 7-3 for Brockton, including two 1-0 defeats,33 before being summoned back to New York in mid-September. He allowed nine runs on 13 hits in his only other start, a complete-game loss at Cleveland on September 20. He gave up two more runs in one-third of an inning against the Boston Red Sox on September 26, and that was it for him on the mound with the Highlanders. For the season – and his big-league career – Carl posted an 0-2 record in 32 2/3 innings, allowing 32 runs (the number of earned runs are not available) and 44 hits, although not a single home run. He did hit well going 3-for-9 with two walks.34

Thompson did get into one more game in the majors, however, as a pinch-runner on October 5, the season finale. That was the same game in which his brother Homer (“Little Tommie”) made his only big-league appearance, but Carl had already been used by that point. It’s too bad that Wolverton never saw fit to let the Thompsons form a battery of brothers, but Homer had injured his back in the weeks prior to this appearance.

Both Thompsons were sold by New York to the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association in January 1913. Carl lasted but one inning, allowing four runs, in his Opening Day start at Atlanta.35 A game on April 25 against Nashville was emblematic of his time with Birmingham. He tossed a five-inning one-hitter (allowing merely a bunt single), and belted a double, the game’s only extra-base hit. Yet he lost, 1-0, after three errors (including one by Thompson himself) plated an unearned run without the benefit of a hit.36 Thompson ended up 1-11 for the Barons,37 with little support, before being returned to New York in late June.38 Thompson was soon transferred to the Atlanta Crackers. It was surmised that he would be “immensely popular with the large Red and Black (University of Georgia alumni) contingent in Atlanta.”39 The change of scenery proved beneficial, as the hurler proceeded to win four straight games in 12 days in July.40

Thompson went 10-5 for the Crackers. His six-hit shutout over Chattanooga on September 6 put Atlanta in a position to win the league pennant by one-half game over Mobile.41 Atlanta then faced Knoxville, champions of the Appalachian League, in a three-game postseason series which ended in a draw, each winning one with one tie. Thompson struck out 15 Volunteers in the 11-inning finale.42

After the 1913 season, Carl intimated that he didn’t expect to play ball anymore. He had a change of heart, yet yearned to stay in Atlanta, even writing Yankees president Farrell to request such, albeit to no avail.43

In the offseason, Thompson lamented that baseball “doesn’t make a fellow any money in the winter.” Thus, he became an auto salesman for the Maxwell Motor Company, observing, “[I did] “very well my ‘first winter out.’” Even so, he fancied still playing with Atlanta if not retained in camp by New York. “I don’t want to go to New York this spring,” he stated. “I feel that with one more year of seasoning here in the Southern League, I will be at my best in 1915.”44 Thompson did attend New York’s camp but was sent in late April to the Jersey City Skeeters of the Class AA International League. Thompson lost all three of his decisions for Jersey City before being returned to Atlanta in late May. After over three weeks of haggling about salary, Thompson rejoined the Crackers, recording a 7-9 mark.

Thompson agreed to return to the Crackers for the 1915 season. On May 31 against Nashville, he “pitched his very arm out of the socket” in losing a complete-game 17-inning matchup, 4-3.45 Facing Little Rock on August 20, he threw a seven-inning no-hitter.46 Thompson ended up 13-13 for the season, his best full year in the minors, allowing only 70 walks in 246 innings.

Before the 1916 season, Thompson quit the Crackers to go into the car business full time. He obtained the southern agency for the Cox Brass Company of Albany, New York, an automobile accessory manufacturer. Even new Crackers manager Charlie Frank couldn’t argue with the logic: “If a player has a good proposition, such as Carl seems to have…he would be foolish to keep in this game.”47

Yet that summer, Thompson moonlighted for the LaGrange (Georgia) Grangers of the Class D Georgia-Alabama League, going 9-3 with a 1.52 ERA. By August, he was actively soliciting semipro engagements around Atlanta, with inquiries being directed to the sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution.48 According to his June 1917 war draft registration, he sold Studebakers in Atlanta, and later Chandlers, Chryslers, and Cadillacs.49

In May 1923, Thompson married Ervis Light, a “most beautiful young woman and a talented musician, possessing a lovely mezzo soprano voice.” 50 At that time, he was a vice president and sales manager for Yarbrough Motor Company.

After relocating to California later that year, Thompson left the auto business. His main vocation for over 30 years in California was as a vice president at the Coca-Cola Company, where he worked until his retirement in 1954.51 He also enjoyed stints with Farmers & Merchants Bank in Los Angeles, Claremont Men’s College, and as treasurer of the California Metabolic Research Foundation in La Jolla. He was a member of the Los Angeles and La Jolla Country Clubs and a Freemason. In 1940, he was elected a director of the Los Angeles Turf Club, operators of the Santa Anita racetrack.52 Among other things, the Thompsons hosted a lavish gathering at their Hollywood home welcoming the coaches of the University of Georgia football squad and their wives, prior to the Bulldogs’ victorious 1943 Rose Bowl appearance.53

Thomas Carl Thompson died on January 16, 1963, at age 73, in La Jolla, California. His remains were cremated. He was survived by his wife Ervis, son T. Carl Jr. (who attended Claremont College and served as a lieutenant in the Air Force54), and grandson, T. Carl Thompson III.



This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Paul Proia.


Sources,, and



1 Baseball-Reference, Retrosheet, and other modern authorities list our subject as Tommy Thompson. But during his playing days, he was known to family, teammates, and the sporting press as Carl Thompson, and will be so identified herein.

2 The 1900 census mistakenly still lists Walter and Earl, deceased children, instead of Alfred and Lois.

3 “Baylor Climbing,” Chattanooga News, May 13, 1908: 8.

4 “Baylor Wins,” Chattanooga News, May 5, 1908: 11.

5 “Gainesville Claims State Amateur Title,” Atlanta Constitution, August 8, 1909: 3.

6 “Strong Base Ball Team is in Prospect at Georgia,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, February 11, 1910: 7.

7 “Georgia Team Downs Auburn Nine, 10 to 3,” Atlanta Journal, May 15, 1910: 9.

8 “Carl Thompson Hurls Nice Game,” Atlanta Constitution, May 21, 1910: 10.

9 “Tech Team Trounced by the Red and Black,” Atlanta Journal, May 21, 1910: 14.

10 A.D. Mynders, “Current Gossip,” Knoxville Sentinel, May 26, 1910: 12.

11 “Yankees Smother Georgia Collegians,” New York Times, March 23, 1911: 11.

12 “Thompson’s Pitching Shutout Clemson Nine,” Macon (Georgia) News, March 29, 1911: 7.

13 Frank Anderson, “All-Southern Club Picked by Anderson,” Atlanta Journal, May 14, 1911: 47.

14 “Thompson the Goods and Georgia Won Out,” Atlanta Journal, May 14, 1911: 47.

15 “All-Southern as Chosen by Heisman.”

16 Frank Anderson, “All-Southern Club Picked by Anderson,” Atlanta Journal, May 14, 1911: 47.

17 “Crack Pitcher is Wanted by Irwin,” Buffalo (New York) Enquirer, June 2, 1911: 9.

18 “Yankees After Thompson Boys,” Atlanta Constitution, December 14, 1911: 10.

19 Clark Howell, Jr., “Georgia Trims Auburn Twice; Thompson Fans Twenty-Two, Only Twenty-Nine Face Him,” Atlanta Constitution, April 7, 1912: 11; “World’s College Strikeout Record Equaled by Pitcher Carl Thompson in Game with Auburn on Saturday,” Atlanta Constitution, April 7, 1912: 11; “Carl Thompson is Georgia’s Wizard,” Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle, April 7, 1912: 6.

20 “Thompson in Grand Form; Georgia Won,” Atlanta Journal, April 7, 1912: 64.

21 “Georgia and Michigan Tie 12-Inning Battle,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, April 12, 1912: 8.

22 “Trinity Lost to Georgians,” Durham Sun, April 26, 1912: 2; “Fast and Beautiful Game at Trinity,” News and Observer, April 26, 1912: 3.

23 “Georgia Was a Soft Snap for Virginia,” Virginian-Pilot, April 30, 1912: 11; “Exhibits Rare Form in Final Home Game,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 30, 1912: 8.

24 Percy H. Whiting, “Because Star Hurlers are Out Tech-Georgia Game Today Will Be Nip-and-Tuck Performance,” Atlanta Georgian, May 16, 1912: 10.

25 “Heisman Picks All-Southern College Team for the Season,” Atlanta Constitution, May 19, 1912: 5; “Mercer Men Stand Up Well in Heisman’s Pick,” Macon Telegraph, May 20, 1912: 6.

26 ‘Carl Thompson Expects to be a Cracker within Few Weeks,” Atlanta Georgian, May 20, 1912: 14.

27 “Carl Thompson to Join Yankees in a Few Days,” Atlanta Constitution, May 23, 1912: 10.

28 “Highlanders’ New Pitcher Has Tryout Against Detroit,” New York Evening World, June 4, 1912: 16.

29 “Thompson Makes Debut; Stands Naps on Heads,” Atlanta Georgia, June 6, 1912: 13; “Carl Thompson in His First Tryout,” Augusta Chronicle, June 6, 1912: 4.

30 “New York Scribe Praises Work of Carl Thompson, Now a Yank,” Atlanta Georgian, June 8, 1912: 8 (from Harry Glazer, New York Evening Journal, June 5, 1912, page unknown).

31 Harry Dix Cole, “New York News,” Sporting Life, June 15, 1912: 4.

32 “Carl Thompson Has Made Good with Brockton,” Atlanta Constitution, September 5, 1912: 9. He is listed on Brockton’s roster only as Thompson on

33 “Jesse is Creeping Up,” Boston Globe, August 26, 1912: 5.

34 show Thompson’s hitting mark as 3-for-9 in individual game stats and 3-for-10 in composite stats.

35 “Rah Rah, Thompson Easy Mark for Crackers,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, April 15, 1913: 11.

36 “Nashville Wins, 1 to 0,” Times-Democrat, April 26, 1913: 11, “Circumstances Continue to Beat Barons in Final Vol Game,” Birmingham Age-Herald, April 26, 1913: 7; “One-Hit Game Lost by Infield Errors,” Birmingham News, April 26, 1913: 8.

37 “Collegian Pitcher Sent Back to New York Giants (sic),” Birmingham Post-Herald, June 25, 1913: 7.

38 “Molesworth Buys Evans from the Pelicans and Ships Thompson Back,” Birmingham Age-Herald, June 25, 1913: 7.

39 Percy H. Whiting, “Gilbert Price Proving Hero; Stops Turtles,” Atlanta Georgian, July 8, 1913: 8.

40 Dick Jemison, “Thompson Scores Third Win; Crackers Wind Up Home Stand with Win Over the Dobbes,” Atlanta Constitution, July 17, 1913: 8; “Whiffs,” Atlanta Constitution, July 17, 1913: 8.

41 “Shut-Out by C. Thompson,” Chattanooga Times, September 7, 1913: 18; “Crackers Bat Howell Keeping Pennant Hope,” Atlanta Journal, September 7, 1913: 33.

42 “Reds Play Crackers to Eleven-Inning Tie,” Knoxville Journal and Tribune, September 14, 1913: 4.

43 O.B. Keeler, “C. Thompson Wants to Play Here; First Practice at Ponce de Leon,” Atlanta Georgian, February 18, 1914: 11.

44 Carl Thompson, “Carl Thompson Auto Salesman, Wants to Remain with Crackers, Likes Atlanta and Billy Smith,” Atlanta Georgian, January 18, 1914: 15.

45 Binnkey Horn, “Dodge’s Single Gives Longest Game of Season to Vols,” (Nashville) Tennessean, June 1, 1915: 10.

46 Dick Jemison, “Carl Thompson Hurls No-Hit Game,” Atlanta Constitution, August 21, 1915: 7.

47 “Frank Off for Valdosta; Bill Smith on Visit Here; Carl Thompson Quits Game,” Atlanta Constitution, March 5, 1916: 1.

48 “Carl Thompson Now Hurling Semi-Pro Ball,” Atlanta Constitution, August 4, 1916: 10.

49 Press Huddleston, “Here’s a ‘Million-Dollar Sales Organization,’ Says Carl Thompson, of Parker-Holland Co.,” Atlanta Constitution, February 1, 1920: 8; “Carl Thompson Joins Cadillac Sales Force,” Atlanta Constitution, April 2, 1922: 5.

50 “Beautiful Bride-Elect,” Atlanta Journal, March 11, 1923: 61.

51 Thompson v. Price, 251 Cal. App. 2d 182 (1967), recorded May 19, 1967, by the Court of Appeals of the State of California, Civil Case No. 8428.

52 “T. C. Thompson, Coca-Cola Man, Dies on Coast,” Atlanta Journal, January 17, 1963: 2.

53 Jack Troy, “All in the Game,” Atlanta Constitution, December 31, 1942: 12. On January 1, 1943, the football team from the University of Georgia (the author’s wife’s alma mater) shut out the UCLA Bruins (the author’s alma mater), 9-0, in the 29th Rose Bowl game, in each team’s inaugural appearance.

54 “Lt. T. Carl Thompson Jr. Marries Elizabeth Jane Locke in Phoenix,” Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1955: 53. Part III, Pg. 1.

Full Name

Thomas Carl Thompson


November 7, 1889 at Spring City, TN (USA)


January 16, 1963 at La Jolla, CA (USA)

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