No. 15 for the Hall

By Jon Lane

“No. 15 for the Halls of Cooperstown” was one of Bobby Murcer’s words during the eulogy he delivered at Thurman Munson’s funeral on August 6, 1979. Munson’s resume was on par with the great catchers of his era, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, yet Fisk and Bench are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Munson is not.

Murcer, one of Munson’s closest friends on the team, found that disappointing.

“If Thurman hadn’t have been killed, he’d be in the Hall of Fame,” Murcer said in a 2007 interview. “Thurman should be in the Hall of Fame for the simple reason that he was a captain of a championship ballclub.”  

A look at Munson’s credentials during an 11-season career cut tragically short.

? AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 (.302, seven home runs and 57 RBIs).

? AL MVP in 1976 (.302-17-105), making him the only Yankee to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.  

? Seven-time All-Star and winner of three straight Gold Gloves (1973-75)

? The first Yankee since Joe DiMaggio to hit .300 or more and drive in at least 100 runs three consecutive years in a row.

1975: .318 BA, 102 RBI
1976: .302 BA, 105 RBI
1977: .308 BA, 100 RBI

A Web site called encourages people to write the National Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee member to urge them to vote Munson into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s easy to follow your heart and believe that Munson belongs in Cooperstown and if he had played a few more years – injuries and all – he may have done enough to merit serious consideration. But with a heavy heart, Marty Appel, who wrote the great book MUNSON: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, can’t in good faith endorse enshrinement on a short body of work and pure speculation over how Munson may have ended his career.

“My heart wants to say yes, but I’m a Hall of Fame purist too and I don’t think you can put a guy in that requires an asterisk and an explanation of what his numbers might have been,” Appel said. “[Baseball historian/ statistician] Bill James said a lot of guys get injured on way to Cooperstown and it never happens. Thurman was the most severe imaginable.”

Do you think Munson is a Hall of Famer? Why or why not?

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