It is with great pride that I announce that Thurman Munson is today’s honoree in the Countdown to Spring Training. Munson proudly wore number 15 for the New York Yankees for 11 seasons, and is honored not only for the statistics that he compiled during his shortened career with the Bronx Bombers, but the great honor that was bestowed upon him as a Yankee both while he was in uniform and after his premature death.
Munson began his career in the big leagues late in 1969 season and became their starting catcher just one year later. He was named the AL Rookie of the year in 1970, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 57 RBI. Munson was named to his first of seven All Star teams in 1971, and in 1973 he won his first of three straight Gold Glove awards.
The card pictured is Munson’s 1976 card (from my personal collection), which was also a breakout year for him. At the begining of the 1976 season, Munson was named Captain of the Yankees. This was especially significant because the Yankees had not had a named captain since Lou Gehrig retired in 1939. Munson’s 1976 season was probably his best all around season, hitting .302 with 17 home runs and 105 en route to winning the league’s MVP award. In 1977, he batted .308, making him the first catcher since Bill Dickey in 1936-39 to have three straight .300 seasons.
Munson’s career came to a tragic end on August 2, 1979 when he was killed in a plane crash. Munson was flying with a flight instructor and the plane crashed while practicing take offs and landings. At the old Yankee Stadium, the team honored his memory every year since then by keeping his locker spot empty, with the number 15 on it. In addition, his number 15 was immediately retired by the club. In the new Yankee Stadium, his locker was moved to the Yankees museum.