Brooklyn outfielder Don Thompson died at 85

Former outfielder Don Thompson, who played with Brooklyn's heralded "Boys of Summer," died September 28 at age 85 in Asheville, North Carolina. He played for the Dodgers in 1951, 1953, and 1954 and appeared in two World Series games in 1953. He is famous for throwing out Billy Martin at the plate to end Game 4, a 7-3 Dodgers win.

Thompson was a reserve outfielder during the time that Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Andy Pafko and Sandy Amoros patrolled the green grass of Ebbets Field, so he saw little action during his Brooklyn career.

However, he had a highlight moment that would have been replayed endlessly had ESPN been in the business in 1953, throwing Billy Martin out at the plate to end Game 4 of the 1953 World Series.

Even those who are casual Dodger fans remember the incident even if they can't recall the game or the year.

Brooklyn lost the first two games of the series to the New York Yankees (who else?) but then Preacher Roe pitched the Dodgers to a 3-2 win in the third game.

Billy Loes got the start in the fourth game and held the powerful Yankees to eight hits and three run over eight innings. Thompson replaced Jackie Robinson in left field to begin the ninth with the Dodgers leading 7-2. Loes pitched to three batters, allowing singles to Gene Woodling and Billy Martin and a walk to Gil McDougal to load the bases.

Clem Labine took over at that point and stuck out Phil Rizzuto. Pinch-hitter John Mize flew to Duke Snider in center field before Mickey Mantle singled to score Woodling. Martin attempted to score from second base and here's Thompson's own explanation from an interview in 1998:

"My throw beat Martin to the plate and Campy (Roy Campanella) had the ball in his mitt and was getting ready for a collision and Martin was bent over and he was going to run into him.

"But at the last minute Campy sidestepped right quick and came up and tagged him under the chin, and honest to God he turned him a flip. He knocked the hell out of Martin. That was the last out, and we won the game."

But it would be the final game Brooklyn would win and New York earned the title four games to two. He played briefly in 1954 and then retired from the game at age 30.

Don Thompson was born in Swepsonville on Dec. 28, 1923. He signed his first professional contract in 1943 with the Boston Braves and made his major league debut with them in 1949. He played with the Dodgers in 1951, 1953 and 1954. Mainly a utility outfielder, Thompson had a career batting average of .217.

His best season was in 1953 when he hit .242 while playing in 96 regular-season games for the Dodgers. While the numbers are not so spectacular, his throw and the tag for final out will remain deeply imbedded in Dodgers lore as long as the game is played.

After baseball Thompson was known as a real estate agent and one of the founders of Preferred Properties. Friends also said he played a good game of handball and enjoyed cooking. None of them mentioned that he had a remarkable throwing arm.