While many fans (myself included) are currently preoccupied by the onslaught of the weekend series between the Yankees and Red Sox, today is a very somber day in Yankees history.
Just 32 years old, the pilose MVP catcher and Yankees captain lost his life in a plane crash. Munson broke his neck as a result from the impact of the crash. According to David Hall, a witness of the cataclysmic accident, Munson’s final words were “Help me, Dave”.
David Hall and Jerry Anderson, the other passenger, attempted to get Munson out of the plane, but to no avail. As the aircraft began to catch fire, the two men had to escape to survive.
Munson had purchased his plane, a $1.4 million Cessna Citation, to facilitate trips home to Ohio when he went to see his family on days off.
In an otherworldly tumultuous time for the Yankees from 1976-1978 (to a point where the team earned the moniker of “The Bronx Zoo”) that included very public feuds between Reggie Jackson and Munson/ manager Billy Martin, coupled with constant bickering between George Steinbrenner and Martin (Martin resigned on July 24th, 1978 and managed the Yankees on four other separate occasions), Munson posted gaudy postseason numbers, as he registered a career .874 playoff OPS (and that includes a .927 OPS in 16 World Series games), and a somewhat obscure personal fire that was often put on display against Carlton Fisk.
But Munson was perhaps even better known for his off-field endeavors. Munson was cherished by his teammates, especially Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, his best friends. The two delivered eulogies during his funeral. He had a special relationship with his wife, Diana, and his three children, Tracy, Kelly, and Michael. Even George Steinbrenner, never one to mince words, had envisioned the first Yankee captain since Gehrig to eventually be the team’s manager one day.
A beloved Yankee, and an even more beloved human being. We miss you.