Monday, June 2, 2014

Gus Thompson’s Nearly Forgotten Legacy

In 1953, baseball fans celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the first World Series. All the living players were invited back as guests of honor—all except one player who history seems to have forgotten. John Gustav “Gus” Thompson was a young pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903 when he pitched for the Pirates in the first World Series against the Boston Americans (renamed the Red Sox in 1907). Thompson went on to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched his last major league game in 1906. He then pitched for Western and Pacific Coast leagues. In 1910 at the end of his professional career, he was playing in Seattle. Around 1911, Thompson and his family moved to Kalispell, Montana, where his wife, the former Edna Knapp, whom he met in college in Iowa, was a former graduate of Flathead County High School. Thompson managed the Kalispell Baseball Club and was the longtime proprietor of the Thompson and Cahill cigar store on Main Street.

This photo was taken at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston before game three of the first World Series in 1903.
Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, N.Y.
The invitation to the fiftieth World Series reunion was not the only time Gus Thompson has been forgotten. Thompson Field on Tenth Avenue in Kalispell was named for him, and was once one of the town’s most popular sandlots. But the field long sat unused, overgrown, and forgotten until some neighborhood residents—newcomers to the area—banded together a few years ago, cleaned it up, had tennis and basketball courts resurfaced, and renamed it Eastside Park. They had no idea why it was named Thompson Field.  
Fortunately not everyone had forgotten Gus Thompson. An article in the Daily Inter Lake on October 5, 1913, reminded the community of Thompson’s career and his contributions to the sport. He was the first Montanan (although a later transplant) to play not only in a World Series, but the FIRST World Series.  He died in 1958 and is buried in the Conrad Memorial Cemetery.

P.S. Remember this baseball team?

No comments:

Post a Comment