There is a cool backstory to the photo Bryce Harper posted on Instagram Sunday evening.
It captured Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson and his players standing in front of the team’s plane in Washington, D.C., just minutes before it departed for Dallas-Ft. Worth. Everybody is dressed in suits and ties, except Thomson, who is dressed in a suit, tie and fedora. He is standing in the middle. He is smiling. His arms are outstretched.
Harper captioned it: “FATHERS DAY FIGHTINS! #SAID”
“That really touched me,” Thomson said.
You see, Thomson wears a suit and tie on every road trip, even as big league dress codes have relaxed considerably over the years.
“It’s a tribute to my father,” Thomson said.
More than a few Phillies players know this. Because everybody has so much affection for Thomson, they decided to surprise him and wear suits and ties for their Father’s Day flight to Texas.
“Thomps is the ultimate pro,” Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola said. “It turned out awesome. He looks great with his hat and arms out. He had no idea. Somebody said he came out and asked why everybody looked so nice.”
Thomson has mentioned his father Jack Thomson a few times since he became interim manager. He was a tremendous influence on his son, offering advice, guidance and little sayings here and there that Thomson still remembers and recites.
“My father said life is going through a forest,” Thomson said a couple weeks ago. “You’ve got a basket. All the trees are people and you’re just taking a leaf off all these different trees and putting them in there. And at the end of it, that’s who you are.”
Jack managed a construction company in Corunna, Ontario. He worked hard. He also loved baseball, which he passed along to his sons.
Jack Thomson took Rob to his first big league game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Thomson, 58, figures he must have been 8 or 9 years old, which means it could have been 1972 or 1973. Those teams had Tigers legends like Al Kaline, Bill Freehan and Mickey Lolich.
After the game, Jack and Rob Thomson walked past the Tigers parking lot.
Every player left the stadium in a suit and tie.
“Rob, that’s what a big league ballplayer looks like,” Jack Thomson said.
Jack Thomson died in 1998, shortly after Thomson had been named the Yankees’ Minor League field coordinator. Thomson was with his brothers the night their dad died. They shared stories about him.
Rob told the one about their day together at old Tiger Stadium.
“If you ever get to the big leagues, you’ve got to wear a suit,” his brothers told him.
Thomson got to the big leagues in 2008 as a member of Joe Girardi’s Yankees staff. The Yankees always wore suits on road trips, so he joked that it was easy to pay tribute to his dad then. But even as dress codes relaxed, Thomson never wavered.
Sometimes Thomson seemed to be the only one boarding a team charter in a suit.
But then that’s what Jack thought a big leaguer looked like.
What a tribute.