Since there were no games tonight, I finally finished reading Marty Appel’s just-published Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, which Doubleday was kind enough to send me for review.
Written by former Yankees PR director Marty Appel, who had collaborated on Munson’s by-the-numbers autobiography in 1977, the new book is a more thorough, objective and insightful portrait than the earlier effort.
I remember Munson as the anti-Reggie from the “Bronx Is Burning” years – the un-glamorous, blue-collar guy who was gruff with the media but won the hearts of the fans with his gritty play and stoic leadership as the Yankees catcher and captain.
Now, thanks to Appel, I have a more fully realized take on him, beginning with his childhood in Canton, Ohio. His father, Darrell Munson, badmouthed Thurman at every opportunity – even on the day that two Yankees executives arrived at the Munson home to sign the 21-year-old draft pick from Kent State to a pro contract.
Said general manager Lee MacPhail: “It was the strangest thing. There was his father, on what should have been a joyous day, lying on the couch in the living room. He barely said hello and didn’t join us at all for the signing. At one point he just hollered into us, ‘He ain’t too good on pop fouls, you know.'”
Thurman Munson found happiness with his wife, her family and their own children, and went on to great success with the Yankees – all of which is documented in the book. I enjoyed reading about his relationships with Steinbrenner and his teammates, as well as his interest in flying his own planes, which he shared with Tony Kubek.
“I think it’s great,” he told Tony, “the feeling of being alone for an hour or two by yourself. You’re up there, and nobody asks any questions. You don’t have to put on any kind of an act.”
On August 2nd, 1979, at the age of only 32, Munson crashed, burned and died in the plane he was piloting.
In one of the book’s most moving passages, Appel reprints the transcript of an ESPN interview with one of the two survivors of the crash. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, as is the case when Appel goes around the horn, getting reaction to Munson’s death from his teammates, some having heard about it from strangers on the street. Even Carlton Fisk, with whom Munson had a fierce rivalry, was grief stricken.
“Carlton Fisk said, ‘People always said Boston-New York was Fisk vs. Munson and there was a personal rivalry. If we were, as people said, the worst of the best of enemies, it was because we had the highest amount of respect for one another…..I respect the man so much…And I’ll really miss him.'”
The story of how the Yankees came together and played the game of their lives right after Munson’s funeral is beautifully told.
If anyone’s looking for a complete, unvarnished look at Munson, Appel’s book gets it done. I highly recommend it.
On a MUCH lighter note…
Rich Mullins of the Tampa Tribune passed along a story he’s been tracking about Derek Jeter and the gargantuan house he’s building on Davis Islands – 30,000 square feet of English manor-style architecture. The seven bedroom, nine-bathroom waterfront manse is “roughly the size of a Best Buy,” says Mullins.
Apparently, the neighbors on Davis Islands, an exclusive enclave accessible only by a bridge connecting it to downtown Tampa, are not amused. Jeter’s home-to-be dwarfs their own mansions and, pending approval from city hall, will have a six-foot privacy fence surrounding it.
Seven bedrooms? Are Derek’s parents and assorted other relatives moving in? Or is he planning to have a wife and kids share the space with him?
Unfortunately, he hasn’t picked up the phone and confided in me. But after looking at pics of the construction, I’m thinking he’s either starting a family or hosting an an awful lot of parties.
…soon take on the look of this?