There is simply no way around it. Any list of top New York Yankees memories that omits it, is a list with a big hole in the middle. It was the day that the Yankees cried.
That day was August 2, 1979, when we lost Thurman Munson in a tragic plane crash. I remember pulling my car over when I heard the news on the radio. I remember pounding the dashboard with my fist and wiping away the tears. Perhaps that is why this one may be the hardest to write.
But every Yankees fan is aware of the tragedy, so instead of mourning all over again, this will be a celebration of the Yankees great captain, the heart and soul of the 70´s team that George Steinbrenner gave us.
Here is a recollection of some of Munson´s wonderful accomplishments:
He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1970.
He won the World Series twice, in 1977 and 1978.
He was the American League MVP in 1976.
He was an all star seven times, in 1971,1973,1974,1975,1976,1977 and 1978.
He won the gold glove three times, in 1973,1974 and 1975.
He was the Yankees captain from 1976-1979.
His number 15 has been retired by the Yankees.
So this is memory number eight in our list of the top ten most memorable moments in New York Yankees history. It joins Reggie Jackson´s three homers in a World Series game and Derek Jeter´s 3,000th hit.
Steinbrenner called Munson indispensable and irreplaceable. Billy Martin called him one of the things you could always count on. On his plaque in monument park, Steinbrenner had inscribed: Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next…our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.
But it is Munson´s description of himself that is perhaps most revealing. It paints a picture of a man who wished he could have expressed his love for the game and his fans more openly. “I’m a little too belligerent,¨ he said. ”I cuss and swear at people. I yell at umpires and maybe I´m a little too tough at home sometimes. I don´t sign as many autographs as I should…¨
It´s okay, Thurman. We love you. Still.