On the evening ofAug. 2, 1979, I was in a bunk at Ted Williams Baseball Camp in Lakeville,Mass., tossing a ball into the glove on my left hand, when a counselor walkedin and announced that Thurman Munson's plane had gone down and that theYankees' catcher was dead. He was 32 years old, a seven-time All-Star andtwo-time World Series winner, the snarling captain of baseball's best and mostcolorful team. If you were a fan then, chances are you remember where you werewhen you found out, too.
Few though were asclose to the tragedy as Marty Appel, then the Yankees' public relationsdirector. In Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, Appel provides arich inside look into the catcher's professional career. This isn't a tell-allbook—there's often a sense that Appel is holding back things he might atanother time reveal. But we watch as Munson starts out 1 for 30 after beingcalled up as a 22-year-old. (Shortstop Gene Michael remembers Munson sitting onhis hotel bed, "really despondent. He didn't even want to go to eat.")We see owner George Steinbrenner applying not-so-subtle pressure on managerBilly Martin to name Munson the first Yankees captain since Lou Gehrig. We'rewith Munson when he accepts the 1976 American League MVP award. We trackMunson's increasing cantankerousness with the media, and we see his passion forflying his private plane intensify.
Regardless ofwhether or how well you recall Thurman Munson or the impact of his career andhis sudden death, Appel's book can at times make you feel as if you had afront-row seat to it all.