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Remembering The Captain – Thurman Munson

I had seen his Yankeeography. I heard of Bobby Murcer’s heroics the day of his funeral. I even remember my dad telling me numerous times he was his favorite player. But I never fully understood Thurman Munson until reading a book called “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain” by Marty Appel.

It was the 30th anniversary of his death in August of 2009 when I just so happened to read the book. I had never read a more fascinating and gripping story, and the fact that it was all true was amazing. The fact that Munson actually declined when he was offered the captain position. That he would taunt Goose Gossage in the most heated moments of a game where he struggled. That he played with numerous broken bones in his body, truly giving it all for the Yankees night in and night out.

But something I don’t think I will ever do again happened while I was reading the very end of the biography. Appropriately, it was about the very end of Thurman’s life. August 2nd, 1979.

If you want a detailed, and I mean detailed account of that crash, look no further. It said it all – how the plane crashed, why, how the inside of the plane and Thurman himself looked after the crash. Here’s the thing I had never done – I cried. I genuinely cried, poolside at my grandma’s house as I read the chapter.

This is an 11 year old, mind you, who had never seen him play. I am in no way connected to Thurman or any of past Yankees except for the fact of being a Yankees fan. But I felt I was more than that after reading the book, and especially that chapter.

This is no book review (though I highly suggest reading it if you haven’t), but it really made me appreciate and think of how great a player and person Thurman Munson was. He wore his heart on his sleeve, stood up for his teammates, and even when he was questioned and doubted, he produced.

Look at his statistics. He was a 7 time All-Star. An MVP. A Rookie of the Year. More importantly, a world champion. Twice. If he had a full career, there is no doubt in my mind he would eventually get inshrined into Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, I can’t change that. Thurman did not have a full career, and nothing close to a full life. But boy did he accomplish a lot in his 32 years. He became an amazing baseball player, a facial-hair wonder, and more importantly, a friendly, down-to-earth, happy father. And that’s all you can ask out of anyone. Thurman did all that, and more.

This is a quick tribute to Thurman, thought up very late at night as I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact he had on the Yankees and how much bigger it would have been if he just had more time on Earth.

Again, I never knew him, never saw him play, and didn’t even know much about him until a couple years ago. But he is one of my favorite all-time Yankees who definitely is more deserving of being mentioned one day or week, every August.

Because it’s not what happened on August 2nd, 1979. It’s what happened every day leading up to that.