Remembering Thurman Munson

Today is the 25th anniversary of the day Yankees catcher and captain Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. I still remember it like it was yesterday. My neighbor Neil told me the news as I was getting out of the car. I didn’t believe him, of course, but he insisted. In those dark days before the Internet, you had to tune to a newsradio station and wait for the story to come back around on the rotation. I managed to be in denial for quite some time before I heard confirmation of the tragedy.

I remember the Daily News headline the next day, and the Bill Gallo tribute cartoon, in which two kids trudge off a baseball field, with Munson’s image hanging over them, and one saying to the other “I just don’t feel like playing today”. I remember Munson’s face on the black-and-white scoreboard in left field at Yankee Stadium, and the moment of silence that turned into a thunderous five-minute ovation. And I remember the game a few days later, on the day of Munson’s funeral, when his friend Bobby Murcer, back with the Yankees after the 1974 trade that sent him to the Giants for Bobby Bonds, hit a walk-off home run to win it.

Sports Illustrated had a big “where are they now” issue a couple of weeks ago which had a picture of Diana Munson and her kids and grandkids. I kept turning back to the page and rereading the little blurb about how they were doing. It just made me happy to know they were okay after all these years.

There were two other men in the plane with Munson when it crashed, and both of them survived. I found two articles in which Jerry Anderson, one of those survivors, talks about what happened on that awful day, one from the NY Daily News , and one from ESPN (via David Pinto). It was hard for me to read them, but it was good to read them, too. There’s also an official web page for Thurman Munson, which has some older articles about him. Finally, I note that in Canton, Ohio, there is a Thurman Munson Stadium. Unfortunately, it appears to be unused at this time, and the guy who wrote about it wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Pity.

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4 Responses to Remembering Thurman Munson

  1. William Hughes says:

    ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” featured a discussion with Tommy John and Sparky Lyle on yesterday morning’s show. Both men agreed that Thurman Munson was one of the toughest ballplayers they ever played with or against. Sparky looked like he was going to break down at any moment.

    Diana Munson also threw out the first pitch at last week’s Old Timers Day. She has become in a way to the Yankees what Joan Hodges has become to the Mets, a highly respected widow of a highly respected member of the organization. Also, his son proposed to his girlfriend in front of Thurman’s plaque in Monument Park.

    The Bill Gallo cartoon you mention is one of his best.

  2. Chris Quinones says:

    I found a link to the Bill Gallo cartoon.

    I was four days shy of eleven. Jeez.

  3. Jeff Nobles says:

    Brings back memories for me, too. The first live MLB game I ever saw was in April or May 1979 at Yankee Stadium. The Tigers were visiting; Ron Guidry was pitching against Mark Fidrych, who was beginning an unsuccessful comeback from injuries. Guidry was great, striking out 17.

    For the Yankees, that was a lost season, the only one that failed to produce a Yankee division-winner between 1976 and 1981. Munson’s death was by far the worst news in a season of continual bad news.

  4. Pingback: Thurman Munson, thirty years later – Off the Kuff

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