The Coast News Group

Jay Paris: From the bases to the boards, Thompson has delivered a hit

Matt Thompson had an idea and maybe the San Dieguito High baseball coaches wouldn’t notice.

“Oh no, they did,’’ Thompson said, “We got in trouble.’’

Thompson, now the Point Loma Playhouse artistic director and an actor, was a Ted Williams fan when playing for the Mustangs in 1987.

When arriving at Williams’ Hoover High in North Park for a game, Thompson made a visit to Williams’ childhood home at 4121 Utah Street.

“I was freaking out we were at Hoover, where Ted played,’’ Thompson said. “So it was before the game and me and two of the other guys actually ran over to his house about a mile away. We kind of gawked at it from across the street.’’

The breakaway bunch returned for the first pitch but were reprimanded.

Thompson, who rarely saw the field, wasn’t concerned about the consequences.

“I didn’t play much; I think I got up nine times all year,’’ he said. “But I did in that game and hit a grounder to third. I was safe at first base, I remember that, but the ump called me out. I guess that was karma for going to see Ted’s house.’’

Thompson now fills the house with his one-man show, “Ted Williams: A Tip of the Cap.” He recently performed it before a capacity crowd.

“It went great,’’ Thompson said. “And we had a nice discussion and told stories afterward.’’

Thompson’s athletic career ended that year at San Dieguito.

He turned to the arts, which led to his presentation of Teddy Ballgame.

Instead of doing a glossy biography of the multi-layered Williams, Thompson dives into what made the former Boston Red Sox star tick.

“Not just his rants and him yelling at sportswriters,’’ Williams added.

Instead we discover Williams’ challenge of switching coasts and his interaction with family. Williams was confident in the batter’s box, but a conflicted Hall of Famer out of it.

“He had these internal demons,’’ Thompson, 44, said. “Even as a kid he preferred to be by himself, be alone. He was in a shell and it was hard for him to come out of it. So I tried to pull those things out. What motivated him and what was his humanity like? There were many conflicts there and that makes a good story.’’

Few know that Williams’ mother was Hispanic. While proud of his heritage Williams felt restrained expressing it.

“This was in the 1950s and he was afraid he would be an outcast if people knew,’’ Thompson said. “He often said if he looked more like his brother — who more resembled their mother — he might not have made it to the majors.’’

Williams once said, “The only race he cared about was the pennant race.” But Thompson learned otherwise.

In Williams’ 1966 Hall of Fame induction speech he preached about inclusion. He railed against Negro League players being overlooked by Cooperstown.

“That really opened the door for the minority players in the ‘70s,’’ Thompson said.

Thompson, who also teaches at area community colleges, was commissioned by the San Diego Hall of Champions to write the Williams manuscript in 2011 for Bob Breitbard’s 90th birthday.

Breitbard, the Hall of Champions founder and Williams’ longtime friend, was thrilled with Thompson’s work.

“I got to read a few pages of it for him,’’ Thompson said, noting that Breitbard died before its debut. “He liked it but said I didn’t have enough cussing in it.’’

Williams wore red but his language had a blue streak. Years later, the salty Williams had second thoughts on his behavior.

“He was a very alpha-male guy,’’ Thompson said. “But he had a lot of regrets in how he related to sportswriters and the fans. He always felt he should have acknowledged the fans more.’’

We’ll do something that Williams seldom did — tip our cap to Thompson for bringing this complex man to life.

Thompson showcases Williams again July 9 at the San Diego Central Library, with a free performance as part of the All-Star Game festivities.

Like the outcome of countless Williams’ at-bats, it’ll be a hit.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.