Thurman Munson died too early. On August 1st, 1979 Munson was killed while flying his own private plane. He was 32. However, at the time of his death, Munson was considered one of the best catchers in the game. How did his stock drop so much that he is barely mentioned at HOF voting time?
Munson played for 11 seasons with the Yankees. In 1970 he was the AL Rookie of the Year, having hit .302 as a rookie catcher. For seven of his 11 seasons, he was an All Star catcher. In 1976 he was the AL MVP, driving in 105 runs while batting .302. Munson was a career .292 hitter, and one of the fiercest competitors in the game.
The Yankee captain hit a total of 113 homeruns, drove in 701 runs, and had 1558 hits in what became a tragically short career. In addition to his hitting and tough style of play, Munson also won three Gold Glove awards for his outstanding defense.
Munson excelled in the post season for the Yankees. He was a career .357 hitter, including a .373 batting average in World Series play. While the numbers may not be eye-popping, those of us who saw the former 1st round draft pick play know that it was the intangibles that Munson possessed that makes him a potential Hall of Famer.
Munson was the heart and soul of the Championship Yankee teams of the 70′s. Munson was the one constant in a locker room embroiled in controversy. It was his leadership that resulted in the Yankees winning back-to-back titles.
What kind of numbers could he have put up if not for his untimely death? The current numbers may not suggest Munson is Hall of Fame worthy…but if you had the privilege of seeing him play….you know how valuable he was…and you know that he should get far more consideration than he gets at HOF voting time.