Some of the Top Cards of 1976

Sunday, December 19, 2010

1976 Topps #650 - Thurman Munson

  • People remember where they were when they first hear about big events. When John Lennon was killed I found about it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football. When Ronald Reagan was shot I was in 8th hour algebra class and someone announced it over the intercom.
  • I was in the car with my mom and a few friends (I think we were on our way home from the mall) when the news of the death of Thurman Munson came over the radio. Most of the people in the car didn't give it a second thought, but I was very quiet for the rest of the trip home. Other players had died in mid-career before this (such as Bob Moose, Danny Frisella, and Lyman Bostock),  but Munson's death had more of an impact on me.
  • Thurman Munson was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1968. He was the fourth player taken in the draft. Munson played in the minors in 1968 and in 1969. Thurman came up to the Yankees in August 1969 and batted .256 in 26 games.
  • Munson was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 and batted .302 in 132 games.
  • Thurman made the AL All Star team for the first time in 1971 (his all-star game stats will come later). Munson batted .251 with 10 HR in 125 games for the Yankees in 1971.
  • The 1972 season was the only one until his final year in 1979 that Munson didn't make the All Star team. Thurman batted .280 in 140 games in '72. It was the first of seven seasons in a row in which Munson would play in at least 140 games.
  • In 1973 Munson batted .301 with a career-high 20 home runs. He also won the first of three consecutive Gold Glove awards in '73.
  • Thurman batted .261 with 13 HR in 1974. Munson bounced back in 1975 to have a career high in batting average (.318). Munson knocked in 102 runs in 1975 -- it was the first of three 100+ RBI seasons in a row for him.
  • Munson had his biggest year in 1976. Thurman was the AL MVP as he led the Yankees to their first AL Pennant since 1964. Munson batted .302 with 17 HR and 105 RBI during the regular season. Thurman batted .435 (10 for 23) during the ALCS and .529 (9 for 17) during the World Series. Munson was hurt by unfavorable comparisons to Cincinnati's Johnny Bench during the series. Reds' manager Sparky Anderson sent Munson a letter of apology after the series. Thurman Munson: Most Valuable Yankee - November 1976 Baseball Digest
  • Munson had difficulties with new arrival Reggie Jackson in 1977 but those troubles didn't stop the Yankees from winning the World Championship. Thurman batted .308 with 18 HR and 100 RBI in 1977. Munson played well in the 1977 postseason, batting .286 in the ALCS and .320 in the World Series. After the 1977 season Thurman expressed a desire to be traded to the Cleveland Indians in order to be closer to his family, but a deal was never made.
  • Thurman started to show the effects of so many games behind the plate in 1978. He still hit the ball well (.297 in 154 games), but he homered only six times. Thurman clashed with manager Billy Martin in May and was suspended for three games for bumping an umpire in June. Munson batted .278 in the ALCS and .320 in the World Series. Thurman Munson: The Real Power Behind the Yankees - February 1979 Baseball Digest
  • In 1979 Munson was on his way to another 140+ game season before his plane crash on August 2. Thurman was batting .288 in 97 games before he passed away. On August 2 the Yankees had an off day and Munson decided to practice some touch-and-go landings in his hometown of Canton, OH. He had recently purchased a new plane and wanted to get some practice time. Thurman's plane clipped some trees just before he got to the runway. The other two people on the plane managed to escape, but Munson was killed. Here is a 2009 article in which one of the survivors describes what happened in the crash. The entire Yankee ballclub attended Thurman's funeral on August 6.
  • Liked to face: Tom Buskey (.714 in 14 AB); Jim Merritt/Dyar Miller (.692 in 13 AB); Tom Hall (.556 with 2 HR in 9 AB)
  • Hated to face: Pete Broberg (.000 in 16 AB); Frank Tanana (.091 in 44 AB); Nolan Ryan (.143 with 13 strikeouts in 49 AB)



  1. Four deceased players in a row. I realize this set is 35 years old, but it's still sad that these players died too young.

  2. Yeah -- I was noticing that as I was doing the posts -- five out of six. There aren't any more deceased players for the rest of the set.

  3. I was playing a baseball game in the backyard at my aunt's house in upstate NY (we were visiting her for the summer). My cousin Lori came out the door to the back porch and yelled, "Thurman Munson died!" In a family of Yankee fans, this was big news.

    The game broke up immediately, as everybody went home to see the news. I'll never forget that.

    Eventually I moved back to that little town for good a few years later, and the kids there always spoke reverently of Thurman Munson.

  4. I have to admit, Munson's death had virtually no impact on me or my family. We did not like the Yankees. We weren't mean about it, but we weren't Munson fans.

    Instead the news was used as a tool to tease my little brother. We tried to get him to believe everything. We told him Munson died in a plane crash and he refused to believe us. He thought it was another trick.

    I can still remember my brother standing on the basement steps and telling us off for such a lie.