Thought I’d be a pain today and wish Mariners bench coach Robby Thompson a Happy 25th Anniversary. I’d just finished reading a nice post in the Hardball Times by author Chris Jaffe about how Thompson — the longtime San Francisco Giants star — had set a dubious major league record 25 years ago by getting caught stealing four times.
You can read Jaffe’s story right here.
Thompson smirked and rolled his eyes when I bade him fond wishes on his 25th.
Turns out, a bunch of advance scouts had beaten me to it. But in a way, I’m glad I brought the subject up. Because I got to hear some of the inside scoop from Thompson about what really happened that day.
“What nobody knows,” Thompson told me, “is that two steal of those attempts were really hit-and-runs.”
Thompson, it seems, was playing on a really bad knee that had labrum and cartilege damage that would latger require surgery. So, when he got on base, manager Roger Craig would start him early in order to help him stay out of double-plays.
One of the four plays was a straight steal attempt that just didn’t pan out and Thompson was gunned down by catcher Bo Diaz.
But the final caught stealing came about in an odd way, as Jaffe chronicles, with Thompson reaching on a third strike in the dirt.
Lefty reliever John Franco was on the mound and Thompson looked over at the third base coach and got the sign to break for second on the pitcher’s first move.
Thompson couldn’t believe it.
“If there was ever one time where I seriously considered missing a sign on purpose, that would have been it,” he told me. “I mean, I’d already been caught three times and they were going to send me again?”
Sure enough, Franco’s first move was to first base as Thompson broke for second. He was a dead duck at the bag.
“So, after the game, I get back to the clubhouse and there’s this wall of media there wanting to ask me about the record I’d just set,” Thompson said. “It was strange, in a way, because that was something I was pretty good at and here I had this record for the opposite of that.”
Thompson merely shrugs these days.
“What can you do?”