Thurman Munson

I love the ‘stache and the hair and the nickname “Tugboat”. I think I’ll name my kid Tugboat. He can send out an SOS (Save Our Smith).

I have a serious crush on catchers. I used to be one, and I consider it the most important position on the field. When I think of all-time great catchers, Thurman Munson always comes to mind, and while looking through his stats the other day, I realized that he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame. Considering this a crime, I’m going to do a post on him.

Born in Akron, Ohio on June 7, 1947, Thurman Lee Munson would become one of the greatest catchers of all-time. A three-sport athlete, Munson received scholarships from numerous schools to play football, basketball, or baseball and sometimes all three, but eventually, he chose nearby Kent State University. In 1967, he played in the famous Cape Cod League, and he hit an outstanding .420. Now, the Thurman Munson Batting Award is given to the best hitter in the league in honor of Munson’s excellence in the CCBL and the MLB.

A year later, Munson was picked fourth by the Yankees in the amateur draft. He spent two seasons in the minors before being called up for 26 uninspiring games in 1969 but finally becoming the full-time catcher in 1969 at the age of 23. He quickly showed his potential by winning the Rookie of the Year in 1970 while hitting .302/.386/.415. He stayed healthy and productive for the next eight seasons. He made 7 of the 8 All-Star Games, and he won the MVP Award in 1976 when he forgot how to draw a walk but drove in 105 runs. Munson was never a power hitter, but he would hit for average (.292 career batting average). In 1976, the Yankees lost the World Series to the Big Red Machine, and when Reds manager Sparky Anderson was asked to compare Munson (who hit .529 in the series including a World Series record six consecutive hits) to Johnny Bench, Anderson responded, “You don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don’t want to embarrass anybody.” Munson was pissed, but honestly, Bench was the better player. Munson followed it up by helping the Yankees win the World Series the next two seasons.

What ultimately stopped Munson’s Hall of Fame career was a plane crash. Munson was homesick and wanted to see his family, so he took flying lessons. On August 2, 1979, he was practicing landing when he failed to release the flaps in time. He and two companions were trapped, but the two companions escaped, unable to help Munson. Munson’s number would be retired immediately after his death, and an empty locker remained in Old Yankee Stadium (though if one exists at the new one is unknown by me).

So, here’s the question — should Munson be in the Hall of Fame? It’s an interesting question. On one hand, he was a very good hitter, especially for a catcher, and was an excellent defensive catcher. On the other hand, can you put him in the Hall based on a relatively short career? Can you project some stats into it? He was still productive at 32, but would his production have sharply decreased? Maybe it isn’t a crime that he’s not in the Hall of Fame, but I think he deserves a mention here. I just wish he got his due in Cooperstown. What do you all think?

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2 Responses to “Thurman Munson”

  1. Jason @ IIATMS Says:

    Munson’s locker will be in the “museum” portion of the new stadium. not in the lockerroom.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Ah, thank you.

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