This Date in History: Remembering Thurman Munson, the Yankee Captain

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IAugust 2, 2012

August 2, 1979 will forever be a day that lives in Yankees history.

Unfortunately, it's not remembered for one of the better moments in their team history.

During the 1979 season, Yankees catcher and team captain Thurman Munson had just learned to take flying lessons in order to travel back and forth to spend more time with his family in Ohio.

He was homesick, and it was well-known that Munson thought about playing for the Cleveland Indians so he could be closer to home.

But, he took the flying lessons anyway so he could travel on his own. On August 2, 1979, Munson had been practicing his takeoffs and landings, but the plane ended up crashing at the Akron-Canton Airport.

Munson died of asphyxiation due to inhaling toxic substances in the plane. If he had survived, Munson likely would have been a quadraplegic because he broke his neck in the crash.

Munson was only 32-years-old at the time of his death and survived by his wife Diana and their three children; Tracy, Kelly and Michael.

Munson made his debut for the Yankees on August 8, 1969 after being drafted by the Yankees in the 1968 MLB Draft and won the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Munson was a career .292 hitter and was a seven-time All-Star in 1971 and 1973-1978.

In 1976, Munson won the American League MVP Award, hitting .302 with 17 home runs and 105 RBI. The Yankees lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series.

That year, Munson was named the Yankees' sixth-ever team captain, an honor he held until his death.

Following the World Series loss in 1976, the Yankees won back to back World Series titles in 1977 and 1978 over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His number 15 was retired and put into Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. His locker was also left untouched and never given out to another Yankee in the old Yankee Stadium.

When the new Yankee Stadium was built in 2009, the team transferred Munson's locker, located in the Yankees Museum at the stadium.

Munson's widow Diana is still a regular who attends Old Timers Day each year to honor her late husband.

Munson will always be a part of the Yankees historic tradition and past, remembered as a player who did the dirty work, played hurt and even injured, but gave 110 percent every single game he was on the field.

If Munson had lived longer, who knew if he would have gone to the Indians or stayed with the Yankees for the rest of his career, but either way, Thurman Munson will be remembered as a Yankees legend with a legacy that will last forever with the fans.