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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Tommy Thompson played, coached for years in White Sox system; Later got career 2nd chance through sobriety

Tommy Thompson managed in his 700th affiliated game in April 2012 with the Winston-Salem Dash and Thompson expressed thanks to his organization, the White Sox, for the long-term chance to work in the game, according to

"It's been a great life. I've had an opportunity to do what I love to do — play the game of baseball, travel, coach young kids. It's a privilege," Thompson told the site. "It's a privilege to do what you love to do and actually get paid for it."

Thompson would also later express thankfulness at something else, his sobriety.

Thompson's long career in baseball began as a player in 1979, taken by the Braves in the 28th round of the draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

Thompson started with the Braves at rookie Kingsport. He hit .307 in 51 games. He then made single-A Durham for 1980 and then AA Savannah and even briefly AAA Richmond in 1981.

He continued in the Braves system through 1985, only getting back to Richmond for three games in 1985. He then moved to the White Sox system for 1986 and played at AAA Buffalo.

As he held on at AAA and prepared for 1987, he spoke to The Chicago Tribune about why he still played. He referenced a couple high school friends nudging him to get a real job.

"I told them that there were 680 people in my graduating class in high school, and only 30 are doing what they really want to do," Thompson told The Tribune. "I'm one of those 30. That makes me feel good."

Thompson finished out his playing career with 58 games at AAA Hawaii that year and nine at AAA Vancouver in 1988.

By 1989, he served as a coach with the White Sox at AA Birmingham. In 1990, he took his first managerial assignment, at short-season Utica.

In his second game in, he recalled later to Florida Today, he got ejected arguing a call. He also reacted to the umpire's suggestion that he didn't know how to manage by doing "a little striptease act," taking off his hat and shirt, something that he believed sent an early message to his players.

"If (the players) didn't think that their manager stood behind them, I think you  tend to lose some kids that way," Thompson told Florida Today. "They don't compete as hard as they can if they don't feel you are all for them."

Thompson managed at single-A South Bend for 1991. He stayed with the White Sox system through 2005, spending much of that time as the organization's minor league catching coordinator. He briefly moved to the Orioles system, before returning to the White Sox for 2011 as manager at single-A Kannapolis.

Going into 2014, as he prepared to manage high-A Winston-Salem, Thompson spoke with about then being six years sober. His drinking was what led to his initial departure from the White Sox after 2005. But he got himself together, then the White Sox eventually hired him back.

"I've known a lot of people that have had addiction issues in life. I think we all have," White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told of Thompson. "I don't know anyone that has gone to Tommy's depth and has come back in such a -- I don't even have the words -- such a grand way and fashion."

For 2021, Thompson is to continue managing, but with former White Sox affiliate Great Falls, as part of the revamped MLB partner league.

"We are so excited to have Tommy back as our manager for the 2021 season," Great Falls' president Scott Reasoner said in a statement after Thompson's hire. "His love for the game and his care to help our players develop is second to none. We are very lucky to have him in our dugout moving forward!"

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,626
Made the Majors:1,248-34.4%
Never Made Majors:2,378-65.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:520
10+ Seasons in the Minors:307

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