Tompkins was born and raised in the small railroad town of Prescott, AR. He was the second child and only son of William Vernon Tompkins and Helen Poe1. His mother was a published author2 and his father was a successful local lawyer who was a partner in practice with Thomas McRae3, Governor of Arkansas from 1921-1925. The prominence of Tompkins' family allowed him to attend the University of Arkansas. There, he studied to become a lawyer like his father, and soon earned a spot on the Razorbacks baseball team.
Tompkins began pitching for Arkansas during his freshman year in 19084 and continued playing with the team through his senior year in 1911. During that final spring with the Razorbacks, Tompkins threw a no-hitter against Missouri Normal5. He performed well in his other starts too and soon caught the attention of the nearby Fort Smith Scouts of the Western Association. In June, after graduating from Arkansas, Fort Smith sought out Tompkins and signed him to his first professional baseball contract6. Before long, he joined the team and was pitching impressively for the Scouts7. A injured hand caused him to miss part of the season8, but his performance with Fort Smith was enough to attract the interest of other teams. The Memphis club of the Southern Association went as far as purchasing Tompkins' contract from Fort Smith8, though did not sign him9.
After the season, Tompkins opted to continue his education by enrolling at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. He pitched for the school baseball team during the spring of 191210, playing alongside Harry Moran and Mark Stewart, both future major leaguers.
Tompkins reported to the Reds, and manager Hank O'Day looked him over. Perhaps frustrated by the lack of talent displayed by the other young pitchers trying out for the Reds, O'Day initially declared that Tompkins was nothing more than a good amateur11. Nevertheless, Tompkins was given his trial, and on June 25th, with Cincinnati losing badly to the Chicago Cubs, O'Day decided to give Tompkins his first and only chance to prove himself. The Reds were down 0-11 to the Cubs when Tompkins came in to make his debut in the top of the 7th inning, and compared to his pitching predecessors, he performed very well. In three innings of work, Tompkins allowed only 5 hits, walked none and struckout a batter to finish the game. In addition, he singled in his only at-bat. Tompkins' only true mistake came in the 9th inning when he made a throwing error that allowed a runner to score. Nevertheless, the outing impressed manager O'Day, who was forced to reconsider his early opinion of Tompkins. As a result, Tompkins was allowed to stay with Cincinnati in hopes that he might learn and develop into a major league pitcher.
After a month a with the Reds and having not appeared in a second game, Tompkins was declared not-ready for the major leagues and was sent to play with Toronto of the International League13.
Tompkins returned home to Prescott with his new law degree and soon entered practice with his father and Thomas McRae17. In November, 1914, he married Hazel Scott and the couple had two children. Tompkins lived in Prescott the rest of his life and worked as a lawyer for more than 60 years. He died on September 20th, 1975 in Prescott and was buried in DeAnn Cemetery.
For contemporary newspaper excerpts concerning Tompkins, see Chuck Tompkins Excerpts.
Statistics at Baseball-Reference.com
1. 1900 U.S. Census
2. 1910 U.S. Census
3. The Governors of Arkansas, by Timothy Paul Donovan, Willard B. Gatewood, and Jeannie M. Whayne
4. Dallas Morning News, 5/15/1908
5. Kansas City Star, 3/25/1911
6. Sporting Life, 6/17/1911
7. Tulsa Daily World, 6/9/1911
8. Dallas Morning News, 10/2/1911
9. Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, 6/22/1912
10. Washington and Lee University 1913 Yearbook
11. The Sporting News, 6/20/1912
12. Idaho Statesman, 6/11/1912
13. Hamilton Evening Journal, 7/25/1912
14. The Sporting News, 8/25/1912
15. State (Columbia, SC), 3/16/1913
16. The Toronto World, 6/16/1913
17. Hope Star, 9/24/1975