|Birth Day:||June 7, 1947|
|Death Date:||Aug 2, 1979 (age 32)|
|Birth Place:||Akron, United States|
As per our current Database, Thurman Munson died on Aug 2, 1979 (age 32).
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In his hometown Canton, Ohio, high school, he captained the baseball, basketball and football teams.
Munson attended Lehman High School, where he was captain of the football, basketball, and baseball teams and was all-city and -state in all three sports. He played halfback in football, guard in basketball, and mostly shortstop in baseball. Munson switched to catcher in his senior year in order to handle the pitching prowess of his teammate, Jerome Pruett (a fifth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 who never reached the majors). He attracted scholarship offers from various colleges, and opted to attend nearby Kent State University on scholarship, where he was a teammate of pitcher and broadcaster Steve Stone.
Munson was selected by the Yankees with the fourth overall pick in the 1968 Major League Baseball draft. In his only full minor league season, he batted .301 with six home runs and 37 runs batted in for the Binghamton Triplets in their final season (1968), and made his first appearance in Yankee Stadium in August 1968, when the Triplets came to play an exhibition game against the Yankees. He was batting .363 for the Syracuse Chiefs in 1969 when he earned a promotion to the New York Yankees.
In September 1968, Munson married Diana Dominick at St. John's Church in Canton. He is survived by Diana and their three children: daughter Tracy, daughter Kelly and son Michael. Diana Munson threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Game 3 of the 1997 World Series in Cleveland.
Munson made his major league debut on August 8, 1969, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics. Munson went two for three with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored. Two days later, his first major league home run was the second of three consecutive home runs hit by the Yankees off Lew Krausse in a 5-1 Yankee victory over the A's. For the season, Munson batted .256 with one home run and nine RBI. He made 97 plate appearances, but drew ten walks and had one sacrifice fly, which gave him 86 official at bats, and allowed him to go into the 1970 season still technically a rookie.
Munson received his first of seven All-Star nods in 1971, catching the last two innings without an at-bat. An outstanding fielder, Munson committed only one error all season. It occurred on June 18 against the Baltimore Orioles when opposing catcher Andy Etchebarren knocked Munson unconscious on a play at the plate, dislodging the ball. He also only allowed nine passed balls all season and caught 36 of a potential 59 base stealers for a 61% caught stealing percentage.
Munson was known for his longstanding feud with Boston Red Sox counterpart Carlton Fisk. One particular incident that typified their feud, and the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry in general, occurred on August 1, 1973 at Fenway Park. With the score tied at 2–2 in the top of the ninth and runners on first and third, Munson attempted to score from third on Gene Michael's missed bunt attempt.
Munson made his second All-Star team and won his first of three straight Gold Glove Awards in 1973. He also emerged as more of a slugger for the Yankees, batting .300 for the first time since 1970, and hitting a career high 20 home runs. In 1974, Munson was elected to start his first of three consecutive All-Star games, going one for three with a walk and a run scored.
On June 24, 1975, during a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Munson had an altercation with Mike Torrez. Torrez hit Munson with a pitch in the first inning, gave up a single to him in the fourth, and threw a pitch up by his head in the sixth. When Munson came to bat in the eighth, umpire Nick Bremigan warned Torrez not to throw anymore brushback pitches; this time, Torrez blew kisses to Munson. The benches cleared, but no punches were thrown; however, after Munson grounded out to end the at bat, he charged the pitcher's mound. Munson batted a career high .318 in 1975, which was third in the league behind Rod Carew and Fred Lynn. For the start of the 1976 season, Munson was named the first Yankees team captain since Lou Gehrig retired in 1939. He responded by batting .302 with 17 home runs and 105 RBI to receive the American League MVP Award and lead the Yankees to their first World Series appearance since 1964. He batted .435 with three RBI and three runs scored in the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals, and batted .529 with two RBI and two runs scored in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Already down three games to none, Munson went four for four in the final game of the Series at Yankee Stadium, but New York was swept by the "Big Red Machine." Combined with the hits he got in his final two at bats in game three, his six consecutive hits tied a World Series record set by Goose Goslin of the Washington Senators in 1924.
Reds catcher Johnny Bench was named the World Series MVP in 1976. A fairly obvious comparison of opposing backstops was made to Reds manager Sparky Anderson during the post-World Series press conference, to which Anderson responded, "Munson is an outstanding ballplayer and he would hit .300 in the National League, but you don't ever compare anybody to Johnny Bench. Don't never embarrass nobody by comparing them to Johnny Bench." Munson was visibly upset by these comments when he got on the mic shortly afterwards.
Munson batted .308 with 100 RBI in 1977, giving him three consecutive seasons batting .300 or better with 100 or more RBI each year. He was the first catcher to accomplish the feat in three consecutive years since Yankee Hall of Famer Bill Dickey's four straight seasons from 1936-1939, matched only by Mike Piazza since (1996–1998). The Yankees repeated as American League Champions, and faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Munson batted .320 with a home run and three RBI in the Yankees four games to two victory over the Dodgers. The Dodgers had stolen 114 bases during the regular season, yet Munson caught four of six potential base stealers in the first four games of the series to keep the speedy Dodgers grounded in the final two.
Munson's World Series championships in 1977 and 1978 made him only the second catcher in baseball history, at the time, to win a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, a Gold Glove Award, and a World Series title during his career. Johnny Bench had become the first catcher to win all four of these awards when he won his own World Series titles with the Reds in 1975 and 1976. Subsequently, and more recently, when Buster Posey won his first Gold Glove Award in 2016 he also joined this list of three catchers in all of baseball history to win all four awards. But as a further point on unique contributions to the game, since Posey and Munson both were named as College Baseball All-Americans based upon their collegiate baseball careers, they now share the additional distinction of being the only two Catchers in history named to an All-American Team who also own a ROY, MVP, GG, and World Series Title.
In 1978, the Yankees and Royals faced each other for the third consecutive time in the ALCS. Tied at a game apiece, and trailing 5–4 in the bottom of the eighth inning of game three, Munson hit the longest home run of his career, a 475-foot (145 m) shot off Doug Bird over Yankee Stadium's Monument Park in left-center field, to give the Yankees a 6–5 win. They won the pennant the next day, and went on to beat the Dodgers again in the World Series in six games, winning the final four. Munson batted .320 (8-for-25) with 7 RBI's in this Series and also caught Ron Cey's foul pop-up for the final out.
The Yankees had lost three in a row, and were in fourth place, eleven games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East heading into the All-Star break in 1979. Despite a .288 average, the wear-and-tear of catching was beginning to take its toll on Munson, and he was overlooked for the American League All-Star team. Frequently homesick, he had a well-known desire to play for the Cleveland Indians in order to be closer to his family in Canton, and was also considering retiring at the end of the season. At the end of July, the Yankees were still in fourth place at 57–48 (.543), fourteen games behind Baltimore.
A modest, one-block street at Concourse Village East and 156th Street in The Bronx was named Thurman Munson Way in 1979. Two school buildings, which house several schools including Henry Lou Gehrig Junior High School, have since been built on the street.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner retired Munson's number 15 immediately upon his catcher's death. On September 20, 1980, a plaque dedicated to Munson's memory was placed in Monument Park. The plaque bears excerpts from an inscription composed by Steinbrenner and flashed on the stadium scoreboard the day after his death:
On August 1, 1980, the day before the first anniversary of the accident, the Yankees filed a $4.5-million lawsuit against Cessna Aircraft Co. and Flight Safety International, Inc. (the company who was training Munson to fly), with team spokesman John J. McCarty saying "we asked for $4.5 million because that is what Munson would be worth if the Yankees traded him." Munson's widow, Diana, also filed a $42.2 million wrongful death lawsuit against the two companies. Cessna offered Munson a special deal on flying lessons if he would take them from FlightSafety International. Rather than requiring Munson to take a two-week safety class in Kansas, FlightSafety assigned a "traveling instructor" to go on the road with him, and train him between ballgames. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
In the summer of 1967, Munson joined the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he led the Chatham A's to their first league title with a prodigious .420 batting average. In recognition of this achievement and his subsequent professional achievements, the Thurman Munson Batting Award is given each season to the league's batting champion. In 2000, Munson was named a member of the inaugural class of the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame.
The locker that Munson used, along with a bronzed set of his catching equipment, was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite a packed clubhouse, Munson's final locker position was never reassigned. The empty locker next to Yankee team captain Derek Jeter's, with Munson's number 15 on it, remained as a tribute to the Yankees' lost catcher in the original Yankee Stadium until the Stadium closed in 2008. Munson's locker was moved in one piece to the New Yankee Stadium. It is located in the New York Yankees Museum. Visitors can view the Yankees Museum on game days from when the gates open to the end of the eighth inning and during Yankee Stadium tours. Munson's number 15 is also displayed on the center-field wall at Thurman Munson Stadium, a minor-league ballpark in Canton. Munson is buried at Canton's Sunset Hills Burial Park.
Currently, Thurman Munson is 75 years, 2 months and 4 days old. Thurman Munson will celebrate 76th birthday on a Wednesday 7th of June 2023.
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