Guest Post by Keith R.A. DeCandido – Remembering Thurman Munson
A few weeks ago we ran a contest for a free t-shirt from Smack Apparel. We asked readers to let us know who their favorite player was and why. Keith R.A. DeCandido shared the following with us and is allowing us to run his answer as a special guest post.
Keith R.A. DeCandido is an author of more than fifty novels, a hundred short stories, a mess of comic books, and a ton of nonfiction. Most of his writing is in the realms of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, most recently the novels Alien: Isolation (based on the classic movie series and the hit videogame), Mermaid Precinct (the latest in his fantasy police procedural series), and A Furnace Sealed (an urban fantasy that takes place in the Bronx). As this post indicates, he’s been an avid Yankee fan since 1976, and has actually written about the Yanks here and there, in print for Maple Street Press, Changeup Publications, Lindy’s Sports, and Swordsmith Productions and online for The Pinstriped Bible and The Replacement Level Yankees Blog.
I turned 50 this year and started following the Yankees in 1976. What sucked me in specifically was being in the living room as a seven-year-old when my parents were watching the Yankees play the Royals and Chris Chambliss hit the walk-off home run that sent the Yanks to the World Series for the first time since 1964 (which was five years before I was born…).
In 1977, I became a hardcore baseball fan, and it didn’t take long for me to zero in on Thurman Munson as my favorite player. Part of it was because he was the team captain, part of it was because he was great fun to watch, part of it was because I thought the catcher was the most important person on the field. I also hated the fact that everyone talked more about Johnny Bench than Munson, which struck me as unfair to ol’ Thurm.
The Yankees had a great pitching staff in those late 70s championship years, which gave us the rise of Ron Guidry, as well as such stalwarts as Mike Torrez, Rudy May, and Ed Figueroa. Munson worked with all those pitchers, and did such a great job calling the game. One of my fondest memories is of Guidry’s famous 18-strikeout game in 1978, one of dozens of highlights for Louisiana Lightnin’ that year. And Munson was the one calling the pitches.
That awful day in August 1979 when we found out that Munson had died in a plane crash was devastating for my ten-year-old self. The year I turned 10 was pretty awful already, as I switched schools because the grammar school I’d gone to from first to fifth grade had deteriorated, and my parents sent me to a new school that wound up being several orders of magnitude worse. I was miserable most of that year — the spring was my last at the now-awful old school, that fall was the first at the disappointing new one — and right between those was my favorite player dying, followed by the Yankees not finishing first, which they’d done every year since I started following them!
My tropism for high-offense catchers who become team leaders has continued, as my favorite historical Yankee is Yogi Berra, and my favorite Yankees over the past two decades were Jorge Posada and Gary Sanchez. Best moment of the All-Star Game this year was El Gary’s double…..
Even if I don’t win, thanks for the chance to wax rhapsodic about my favorite player. I still wear my #15 jersey to the Stadium every single time I attend a game, and every time I’ve had a chance to choose a numbered shirt for whatever reason, it’s always been 15, and always will be.