Tuesday, August 02, 2005

 

August 2nd, 1979

Thurman Munson Dies

I've written about Munson before, namely on the circumstances surrounding his death and the legacy that has grown up around him. I'm not wild about that entry; it seems on re-reading to be a rambling effort, in which I work out my thoughts about the man before finally summing them up in the final line. I like the final line--it does express my feelings towards the Munson legacy--but I probably could've spared you all my mental process to reach that point.

Having done my bit on Thurman the man, I feel I should do one as well on Thurman the player. Munson was an interesting player in that he did one thing well--hit for average--and everything else well enough. Average wise Thurman was excellent, for his career he hit .292 compared to a league average of .255. In contrast, Munson never walked a lot; his career high was fifty-seven in his rookie season. But then, when you hit .300 five times in eleven seasons, and .280 or better in three others, huge numbers of walks are a bonus, rather than a necessity. Munson, outside of 1973, also never hit for a lot of power; his twenty home runs that season comprising nearly twenty percent of his career home runs. But he hit for enough power and like his on-base percentage, was nearly always above average in slugging. Of course all of this offense came from a premium defensive position and one Munson played quite well, winning Gold Gloves from 1973-75 plus his role as team captain and leader.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Probably not. Munson didn't become a regular until he was twenty-three and--tragically--never had an at-bat past age thirty-two. His lifetime rate stats (.292/.346/.410, OPS+ 116) are good but not so good as to justify looking past his short career and the short career prevented Munson from reaching any landmark statistics. But was he a very good player for some very good teams? Absolutely. He deserves to be remembered not only for the circumstances around his death, but also for the player he was.




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