Thurman Munson, the highly respected New York Yankees’ catcher and captain, was a ball player’s ball player.
In his era, he received and deserved admiration equal to that of Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. He was tough, smart and dependable. He played all-out all the time. He was the Yankees heart and soul, the glue that kept them together.
A seven time all-star, Munson lead the Yankees to World Series appearances in 1976, 1977 and 1978, with the Yankees winning the last two. His brilliance was in leading by example. Whether it was in getting the big hit, or in throwing out runners with throws that came from all arm angles, he excelled at finding a way to get the job done.
Despite his competitiveness, he always remained a gentleman.
“Thurman Munson was easy to umpire behind,” explained Major League Baseball umpire Ron Luciano.” He never held a grudge if I blew a call and was always a lot of fun to talk to, besides being a great catcher.”
For his career, Munson batted .292 with 113 home runs and 701 runs batted in. He had 1558 hits from 1969 through 1979. He was the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable player in 1976.
Major League Baseball is remiss in not inducting him into The Hall Of Fame. The Cincinnati Reds‘ Johnny Bench, the second best catcher of the era, has been enshrined. Had Munson’s career not ended prematurely after his death in a plane crash in 1979, his career statistics would have easily reached a plateau that would have gotten him into Cooperstown.
On August 2, 1979, he died in the crash near the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio at the age of 32. It was one of those moments that hits you so hard emotionally, that you remember exactly
what you were doing when you heard the news. When I heard the news on my car radio, I pulled the car over and cried.
The number displayed on the plane’s tail was: N15NY. His number fifteen has been retired by the Yankees.