|'1000 Point' Bobby Thompson||Back|
THE MYSTERY of "1,000-point" Thompson has been solved. In this space last week, I scoffed at the suggestion by Robert L. McLaughlin that a Syracuse University player might have scored 1,000 points in his college career back in the low-scoring 1930s.
Mr. McLaughlin thought that a fellow by the name of "1,000-point" Billy Thompson had accomplished that feat.
The truth, it turns out, is that Billy's younger brother Bobby scored 1,000 points as a high school player way back in the 1921-22 season for what was known as the Passaic High School "Wonder Team." The nickname was appropriate. Back then, there was a center jump after each basket and a high-scoring high school basketball game ended up something like 20-17. But for a period of 5 seasons - 1919 to 1925 - the Passaic teams were outscoring their opposition by three to one, often running up tallies of more than 100 points. And, for 159 games' straight, Passaic didn't suffer a loss.
All of this ancient and marvelous history was acquired by way of a dozen letters and even more phone calls that I received in the few days since the piece about "1,000- point" Thompson appeared.
It seems there are a lot of folks out there who can recall that "1,000-point" Bobby Thompson was heavily recruited by Syracuse. It's true.
On Tuesday, Charles R. Heer Sr., of 106
Rugby Road, called and told me how to get
in touch with Bobby Thompson's younger
brother Billy. Billy said he can vaguely
recall the era when his brother was the
star of the amazing Passaic team. "I was
Billy Thompson, who coordinates physical education for The Peddie School in Heightstown, N.J., said his brother died in January in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The younger Thompson also confirmed that Syracuse University was thrilled with I'he prospect of having his brother — maybe the greatest Passaic shooter in a . great era of high school basketball — team up with Ail-American Vic Hanson on the varsity.
So astounding was the scoring of the Passaic team and "1,000-point" Bobby Thompson that the team's achievements are recorded in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and Thompson's shot-making abilities have been cited in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" column.
In Bobby Thompson's senior year, the "Wonder Team's" most prolific season, Passaic scored 2,293 points in 33 games to only 612 for the opposition. It averages out to 69 points per game. That was the year that Bobby had more than 1,000 points. The record keepers at Passaic High School have not been able to determine his exact point total, by the way.
One of the reasons Bobby had so many points was that he was an excellent foul shooter, and the rules then allowed the best shooter to take all of the foul shots. Bobby Thompson enrolled at Syracuse University in the fall of 1922 and played freshman basketball, according to his brother. But at the end of that year, he developed rheumatic fever, "which left him a leaky valve in his heart and he could never play again," his brother said. Bobby Thompson became one of the most highy recruited basketball players to ever graduate from Syracuse without playing a single minute for the varsity squad. But he eventually earned his varsity letter as the manager of the 1927-28 SU basketball team after leaving school for three years. "In those days, you had to fight like hell to be the varsity manager," said brother Billy.
Bobby's shooting prowess was legendary. One alumnus, Joseph Curtin, said he recalled that the elder Thompson put on an exhibition once from the sidelines during a timeout shooting 23 straight baskets until the ball had to be relinquished for the resumption of play.
Billy doesn't remember that. But he does recall that Bobby could stand blindfolded at the foul line and toss in five out of six free throws.
After graduation, Bobby became an insurance executive and remained in Syracuse for many years before moving to New York City.
.Bobby Thompson's illness may have prevented him from becoming the Syracuse University hardwood phenomenon that everyone was expecting back in the '20s. But Billy insists that he continued to defy the imagination by living to the ripe old age of 82.
"With his heart," said Billy Thompson, never thought he'd make it to 50's.