This part of The Deadball Era is dedicated to the memory of my all-time favorite player, Thurman Munson, Captain of the New York Yankees. Right before the start of the 1969 season, my father, Frank, Sr., who was a life long Yankee fan, was really excited about this "new kid" that the Yankees had drafted #1 the previous year. My dad thought that this "kid" was a lock to make it big with the Bombers. In August of 1969, my dad read a blurb in a newspaper that "the Kid" had been recalled from the Minors. There was going to be a twi-night doubleheader the next day with the Oakland A's. If we were lucky, maybe we would get a glimpse of the rookie.

      Well, we had to settle for going to the second game, because my dad had to work and couldn't close our family owned business until about 6 o'clock. It worked out perfectly! Thurman was announced as the catcher in the starting lineup for the second game. I immediately took a liking to him. He was quick, agile, could run fast. He had pop in his bat and also, my Dad pointed out to me, he had a little "swagger" to him. He was definitely confident. We saw him get his first major league hit against Catfish Hunter in the 7th and his first 2 RBI's in the eighth! Both clean singles! Not a bad debut! On the way home my Dad told me to watch "how that kid plays," and "that's the way you want to play the game." I always trusted my dad's judgment, so right then and there, I adopted him as my favorite player.

      And he has continued to be my favorite player ever since. I can honestly say that he was a player that I truly loved and admired. His death, on August 2nd, 1979, was truly one of the saddest days of my life. I had learned to admire him, not just for his skill and talent as a ballplayer. Any athlete can have talent. (Does Albert Belle come to mind?) It was his human qualities that I really admired. He had integrity. He was stoic. A leader of men who didn't have to tell people to follow him, they just did.

      And I loved reading about his caustic sense of humor. And of course, any person who could stand up to some of the ridiculous questions that spewed forth from the New York sportswriters was Number #1 in my book. I met my hero in late 1976. He was making a personal appearance at a fast food restaurant in my home town of East Brunswick, NJ. I was 17 then, a senior in High School, and I had just gotten my driver's license. I didn't even know Thurman would be there until a friend of mine called me up and told me about it. By that time, I had only about 15 minutes to get there if I wanted to meet him! I drove like a bat out of hell! Somehow I did get there....just as Thurman was leaving! I jumped out of my car and made a mad dash for the car he was in! You could tell right away I was a fan. I had my Yankee cap on, and a Yankee sweat shirt with a number 15 that I had my Mom sew on for me! Well to make a long story short, I never made it to the car. I fell! Hard! I had stepped in a pothole in the parking lot and was so focused on what I was doing I didn't see it!

     Bam! I fell like a brick! I just sort of rolled over and sat there, holding my elbow, and feeling really stupid, tears starting to well up in my eyes, partly because of the pain I was in and partly that I embarrassed myself in front of everyone. It didn't help that I had apparently missed my only chance to meet my hero.
Well, the next thing I knew, I looked up and there, leaning over me was Thurman Munson! I mean, Wow! He had seen me fall and stopped to see if I was OK! He asked me if I was all right and I nodded. I picked myself up and proceeded to ramble on about how he was my favorite ball player and how I had been rooting for him since he came into the league. I told him how much my Dad had liked him too, and how we had gone to see him in his first game. He asked me about my Dad and I told him that he had died when I was twelve. He told me that he was sorry and asked me my name. After a couple of minutes, he told me it was time for him to go because he was already running late. I asked him for his autograph which he had no problem with.

     I hobbled back to my car to get a baseball I had brought! Whoops, unfortunately for me, I left the ball home, but I did have a note pad, part of my school stationery, so I settled for that! (I sure wish I hadn't forgotten that ball) As he was signing the paper I still couldn't believe how lucky I was and I wished my dad could have been there. He handed me back the notepad and we shook hands as I thanked him for the autograph. He told me to "take care of that elbow" as he got back into the car. I shouted to him "thanks again" and he drove off! What a guy! When I went to school the following Monday I showed off the autograph to everybody!

      Then there was the time when Sparky Anderson disrespected Thurman in the Reds locker room before a national TV audience after the 1976 World Series. He was asked by a reporter how Thurman compared to Johnny Bench, who, incidentally, Thurman was friendly with, Anderson replied "Please, don't embarrass any catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench." Oh, was I furious! I immediately fired off a letter to The Cincinnati Reds, stating my complete anger at Anderson's comment! I never did get a reply back!

When the "feud" between Thurman and Reggie Jackson started, I of course, was on the side of my hero! When Red Sox fans gave me grief about Carlton Fisk being better, it was paramount to war for me! No one ever dared say anything bad about Thurman in front of me.

      He was always the one I would turn the TV on to see his at bats. He was the one I cheered for when he came through in the clutch! He was the one I admired when I saw him playing injured, in obvious pain, but always getting to that foul pop or wild pitch!! He was the one for whom I cried my eyes out when I heard the news of his death. To this day, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it!

      That is why I have dedicated this part of the site to my hero! He was as special to me as Babe and Lou and Teddy Ballgame and Joe D. were to another generation of fans! I'm proud to say that he was my hero! In my heart, Thurman Munson will never die!