Biography Of Thurman Munson
Summary of the life and baseball accomplishments of Thurman Munson as well as his early and tragic death.
Thurman Lee Munson was born in Akron, Ohio on June 7, 1947. He was a star baseball player while attending Kent State University. Gene Woodling was the New York Yankee scout who took notice of Munson and insisted that the Yankees sign him. In June of 1968, Munson was the New York Yankees' Number One pick in the amateur Free Agent Draft and he received a $75,000 bonus. Munson played with Binghamton and Syracuse during his short minor league career of 99 games. Then the Yankees called him up during the 1969 season. Munson played so well during 1969 season that he won the job of starting catcher in spring training of the following year and held that position until his death.
Munson won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1970. He was an excellent defensive catcher and won 3 consecutive American League Gold Glove awards in 1973, 1974, and 1975. He was brilliant in the physical as well as mental aspects of the game and could throw one of the fastest releases ever seen in baseball. Munson was the best clutch hitter in his prime and hit more than 100 home runs and batted better than .300 from 1975 to 1977. In 1976, Munson was named as the first Yankee team captain since Lou Gehrig and won the American League's Most Valuable Player award that year as well. He was no doubt the most respected man on the Yankee team and helped them win 3 American League pennants and 2 World Championships. Munson also was selected for 7 All-Star games during his 11 year career with the Yankees.
Tragedy struck on August 2, 1979 when Munson died quickly in a plane crash. He was practicing takeoffs and landings in his new twin engine Cessna Citation jet at the Akron-Canton airport. Something went wrong causing the jet to clip a tree and fall short of the runway on a landing attempt. The plane then burst into flames killing Munson who was trapped inside and injuring two other companions. His sudden death stunned the nation and especially sorrowed the baseball community. Munson's wife, Diana and three children survived him. The entire Yankee team attended his funeral in Canton, Ohio. Lou Pinella and Bobby Murcer, who were Munson's best friends as well as teammates, gave moving eulogies. That night the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 in New York with Bobby Murcer driving in all 5 runs.
Although Munson has not yet been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame he is a likely candidate in the future. The Yankees have retired his No. 15 uniform and have placed a memorial plaque on the centerfield wall at Yankee Stadium. To this day, despite a packed clubhouse, Thurman Munson's locker remains empty as a subtle tribute to such a great player. Munson is buried at Sunset Hills Burial Park in Canton, Ohio.