Monday, August 3, 2009

Remembering Thurman

It was 30 years ago when I heard the news over the radio while sitting in my bedroom writing a letter to some baseball player to ask for his autograph.

Shortly after there was a knock at the side door of our house. It was Pat, my friend from next door. He was crying. He, too, heard the news.

Thurman Munson, the Yankee catcher, was dead, killed in a plane crash.

Munson was just one of many of my childhood sports heroes. There was also Joe Namath and Dr. J and Roger Staubach, whose hand I once shook before a Cowboys-Jets game at Shea Stadium.

I wore my chest protector inside-out during CYO baseball games so the orange would show, because that's how Munson wore his. My coach would tell me to fix the chest protector so the blue side showed.

I would tell him this is how Thurman Munson wears his. He would tell me, "You're no Thurman Munson." I would mutter something like, "Yeah, well you're no Bill Virdon."
Virdon managed the Yankees at the time.

Years later I would argue with Red Sox fans that Munson was better and tougher than Carlton Fisk.

I once talked to Lou Piniella about Munson when Lou was managing the Rays. Lou had tears in his eyes when he talked of the ovation Munson received the day after his death, when the Yankees tried to hold a moment of silence at Yankee Stadium, and of how Bobby Murcer drove in all five runs in a come-from-behind walk-off win against the Orioles the following Monday.

The Yankees flew to Ohio for Munson's funeral, than flew back to New York and beat the Orioles.

Sunday was the anniversary of Munson's death, and 30 years later I can still hear Pat knocking on the door.

Here is a link to a Daily News story on Munson ...

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