I’m not an expert on Thurman Munson, he died in 1979 and I didn’t start watching baseball until 1983 but what I’ve heard about Thurman Munson, is that there’s not nearly enough information or reporting about him one of the most underrated and under appreciated baseball players of all time. We are talking about one of the best all around Catchers of the 1970s, right there with Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. Same skills as both players but ran better and could hit for a better average.
This was a catcher who was a 300 hitter and back then that almost never happened. Besides I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan and the New York Yankees are our arch rivals and Orioles fans hate the Yankees and we had a very good rivalry with each other in the 1970s and 80s and the Yankees cost the Orioles a three division titles in the mid and late 1970s, 76-78. But again what I’ve heard and know about Munson, is a great all around catcher who was headed to the Hall of Fame.
And even though he only played eleven seasons 1969-79, again since he was one of the best all around catchers of an entire decade that alone should be enough to give Thurman Munson consideration for the Hall of Fame. Anytime you’re one of the best players at your positions and one of the best players in the game for an entire decade, that alone should give you strong consideration to be in the Hall of Fame. But that’s not up to me but it took a plane crash in the Summer of 1979 to keep Thurman Munson out of the Hall of Fame because he’s a player that played in pain constantly, similar to Mickey Mantle another great Yankee and who was headed to the Hall of Fame.
If you want to know if Thurman Munson was a great baseball player or not, you need to know what makes a great baseball player. To me that’s someone with no glaring weakness’ and at least with a few glaring strengths and you show these skills consistently for a solid period of time, 5-7 or ten years to me for a catcher to be a great Catcher, you can’t just be a guy that calls a great game, defends his position well and throws the ball well, Rick Dempsey of the Orioles did all of those things very well.
And for about ten years about as well as they could be done. But he was basically a 230 hitter with very little if any power and not much of a run producer his entire career. But he was a good clutch hitter in the playoffs but that alone even with being a great Defensive Catcher. Doesn’t get you in the Hall of Fame, the reason why Thurman Munson was a great catcher because he did everything that Rick Dempsey could do if not better.
But he was also a 300 Hitter who drove in runs. Who also had solid power but not great power but definite threat to go deep. In the American League the two best catchers in the 1970s were Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson and you could go either way and for that decade I would lean towards Munson, because he played through injuries without losing production. Fisk missed a lot of time because of injuries. When I think of the term captain as it relates to sports, I think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers who his teammates called Cap.
But captain also fits Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees who was not only the captain of his teams but the leader the quarterback, the on field coach of that team that his teammates knew they better do their jobs or the captain was going to get on them. Who always did whatever he could to make sure his players were in the best position that they could be so they could play as well for the Yankees as possible. Thurman Munson was the Captain of the New York Yankees.
Frank Russo: Captain- The Thurman Munson Story