⚾️ Thomson Leads Phillies to the World Series
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Former Kansas baseball catcher and current Philadelphia Phillies manager, Rob Thomson, has led the Phillies organization back to the World Series for the first time since 2009. Thomson was a catcher at KU from 1983-85 and posted the best hitting season in program history in 1984 with a .443 batting average.
Thomson will make his World Series managerial debut tonight with first pitch between the Phillies and the Houston Astros set for 7:03 p.m., CT.
“He has grinded his way through professional baseball for a really long time,” Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald said. “He really epitomizes what a Jayhawk is – a big-time, blue-collar grinder. To play for the ultimate prize in baseball in the World Series is pretty special.”
The Phillies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 in the first round, then knocked off the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series with a 3-1 series win. Thomson and the Phillies advanced to the World Series by beating the San Diego Padres 4-1 in the National League Championship Series.
Thomson was named the interim manager for the Phillies on June 3, 2022 following the dismissal of Joe Girardi. Thomson had the interim tag removed from his title on October 10 and was given a two-year contract extension. He took over the club with a 22-29 record and led the Phillies to an 87-75 regular-season record and a trip to the postseason.
“He’s finally gotten the opportunity,” said former Kansas assistant Lee Ice, who coached with the Jayhawks from 1984-90 and played baseball at KU from 1976-78. “I think he would have been successful even if he would have had the opportunity sooner. That’s what I saw in him from following his career and his organizational skills. His attention to detail is incredible. I’m happy for him.”
Former teammate Scott Jones echoed that sentiment. “Rob was a terrific teammate at KU,” said Jones, who played at Kansas in 1984 and was teammates with Thomson. “He was generous with his talent as a ball player on the field and off the field. His generosity included providing support and advice to his teammates to improve their performance and our team’s performance. His future as a coach and ultimately a manager was evident.”
Thomson was a career .369 hitter during his three seasons at KU, which is tied for the fifth-highest career batting average in program history (minimum 200 at-bats). He also ended his career with the sixth-best slugging percentage at .570 and ninth-highest on-base percentage at .448. Following the 1984 and 1985 seasons, Thomson was awarded the Gib Francis MVP Award as voted on by his teammates.
“Rob was an exceptional leader for us and a great catcher back when I played with him in 1983 and 1984,” former teammate and pitcher Kevin Kroeker said. “I’m so glad he finally got a chance to manage after all these years. He’s totally turned the Phillies into winners that believe in themselves (just like Rob).”
Thomson’s leadership was pretty clear to his old coach as well.
“That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” Ice said. “A lot of the players that played at that time looked to Rob because of how tough he was and he was kind of the quarterback of the club. He’s the guy that ran the pitching staff.”
Thomson went on to be drafted in the 32nd round of the 1985 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. Following a short playing career with the Tigers, Thomson transitioned into coaching and has spent more than 30 years working in various positions with the Tigers, New York Yankees and now the Philadelphia Phillies.
Thomson spent 27 years in the Yankees organization in the front office and as a coach. He was the bench coach for the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees. Thomson helped coach Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez during his time in New York and was in the organization for five World Series Championships.
The last KU player to participate in the World Series was Bob Allison on the 1965 Minnesota Twins. Allison played at KU in 1954. Thomson is believed to be the first KU player to manage in the World Series.
“It’s just cool to see the success that he’s having after all these years,” Ice concluded. “He’s very proud of being a Jayhawk and I think people are starting to realize that.”