Thurman Munson died nearly thirty years ago, but I remember August 2, 1979 better than I remember yesterday.
I went to Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey with my grandparents. I ate lunch at Burger King and had a Whopper with no pickles and no mayo, and a medium coke. I got a pack of the Yankee baseball cards that Burger King offered that summer. I wanted desperately to get my favorite player, Thurman Munson. I did not get the card, but did not really care too much.
It was overcast most of the day and I remember exactly what the sky looked like when Steve Bosh, the Channel 11 newscaster of the day, interrupted my regular cartoon watching. He told me that Thurman Munson was killed when he crashed his private plane.
I really did not think it was true. Later on the five o’clock news, it was apparent that the news was not a mistake. Every time I saw Steve Bosh on television after that, I changed the channel.
My father came home from work and had two packs of baseball cards for me. After three years of hoping to get it, I finally got a Thurman Munson card, but it really did not even change the expression on my face, and the smile that would have been ear to ear just a day earlier never materialized.
In most cases, a player’s legend builds over time. I believe that while Thurman Munson is still loved, his career is underrated.
He only played for 11 seasons, seven of which he was an All-Star. He won a Rookie of the Year Award and a Most Valuable Player Award in his career. Munson was on three pennant winners and two world championship teams. He batted over .300 and had over 100 RBIs in three consecutive seasons.
His playoff and World Series statistics simply confirm that you would not want anyone else up to bat in a clutch situation. I feel that he is remembered for his grittiness more than his greatness. His career statistics are as good as anyone could hope for in 11 seasons.
I wish August 2, 1979 never happened. Munson would surely get a standing ovation on Old Timers Day and would be at Yankee Stadium at least a few times a year; he might have even been the manager. Most importantly, even if he played only a few more seasons, even bad ones, he would be in the Hall of Fame.