Crime and Punishment

Prison sentences usually fit the crime. If you mention knocking over a bank or liquor store, most people seem to be OK with doling out a jail term of a certain number of years. Sentencing practices can look absurd when very different crimes are generate the same punishment.

There are several former ball players appearing in the 1952 Topps baseball card set who wore the wrong kind of pinstripes. Ferris Fain, Al Benton, and Hank Thompson all found themselves in prison with Thompson getting 10 years for the armed theft of less than $300.

Howie Fox appears briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1952 card set. Within a couple years he was struggling with the AA-level San Antonio Missions in an effort to return to an MLB roster. While with the Missions he and a partner opened a small offseason bar to earn income. Just a few weeks into the venture Fox was murdered by a drunken 20-year-old after Fox evicted him from the premises.

Fox’s murderer was quickly apprehended and went to trial in 1956. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the same punishment as was doled out to Thompson. I think most observers would find serious differences in the gravity of the two events that were not reflected in the initial sentencing, both of which were issued within a few years of each other in the same state. The parole system addressed this in 1966 when Thompson’s prison term was reduced to 4 years.

Above: Are those elf ears on Fox’s 1952 Topps card?

The paths of Hank Thompson and Howie Fox crossed multiple times on ballfields in the early 1950s. Thompson batted .364 in these encounters with 3 homeruns and 11 RBI.