Despite aggrieved online sputtering to the contrary, being the face of the New York Yankees has been oddly unhelpful in the Baseball Hall of Fame process for many years running.
Sure. At one point, in the Golden Era of Electing Your Friends, plenty of Yankees of yore slipped past the guards. Names like Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt and Red Ruffing might be Hall worthy, but they're not terribly differentiated from some other stars of a bygone era who might've been bypassed.
But since the '70s, several Yankees who could be described as anything from intrinsic to iconic have been on the outside looking in.
The '80s Yankees were led by beloved captain Don Mattingly, whose high peak hasn't been enough to get him particularly close to the threshold for election, and who's ended up firmly in the Dale Murphy Zone. The '90s-'00s dynasty has Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as Hall of Fame representatives, but Bernie Williams has been painfully overlooked, and Andy Pettitte/Jorge Posada are unlikely to get in off the ballot, either.
And then there's Thurman Munson, whose career was cut tragically short in the summer of 1979 when his personal plane crashed in the Ohio countryside. Munson, just 32 at the time and with plenty more baseball ahead of him, even on achy knees, finished his career with 10 qualifying seasons, earning him a shot at Hall of Fame induction.
So far, no dice, though; Munson saw the waiting period for election waived like Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig, but wasn't ushered through the Hall's doors, peaking at 15.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot, and never reaching 10% again in the 14 years that followed. For an iconic player like Munson with a clear role in baseball history and a tragic end, this is almost impossible to believe.
For the first time in many years on Tuesday night, Munson's widow Diana made a public plea for the Hall to reconsider her husband's case. The message may yet again fall on deaf ears, but it's certainly worth a shot.
When can Yankees Captain Thurman Munson make Baseball Hall of Fame?
Munson's next shot at election will come in Dec. 2024 for a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2025. This December, the committee that gathers at the Winter Meetings will be picking through a list of non-players (managers, executives, etc.) from the modern era (very exciting).
So, after you've had the appetizer (Ed Wade getting elected or something), come back for the main course in two years!
Munson wasn't just a symbol for toughness during his MLB career. He was an outstanding hitter, as well as a human rumble strip behind the plate. His rivalry with Red Sox backstop Carlton Fisk dominated the '70s, and ironically, Fisk's longevity eventually became his defining trait; his career lasted 24 years into the '90s, and he was elected to the Hall in 2000.
Munson's achievements have been overlooked in the wake of Fisk's decades of dominance. He was a Rookie of the Year winner, seven-time All-Star, MVP recipient, and thrice a top-10 finisher in the MVP race. In the World Series, he hit .529 in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Reds in 1976, followed by .320 marks in both Yankees World Series wins over the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978. He was a rough-and-tumble consistent .300 hitter with power and patience. He was a building that could not be moved. And, yes, he was the straw that really stirred the Yankees' championship drink.
Hopefully, two years from now, he and Phillies legend Dick Allen will also be posthumous Hall of Famers.