Tuesday, August 02, 2005

One fewer hero

Thurman Munson died on this date in 1979, still in the prime of his career.

Munson was the epitome of the tough-guy catcher. Could always hit in the clutch. Down by one, late innings, man on base, there's nobody you'd rather have at bat. Would never rub the spot where a ball hit him, just wouldn't do it. I think it was Sparky Lyle who once wrote that Munson wasn't moody: moody people were sometimes nice and sometimes not; Munson was always mean. But that didn't matter to this adoring fan. Rookie of the Year, MVP, three Gold Glove awards, two world championships, three league championships, first Yankee captain since Gehrig. But none of that, either, mattered to this adoring fan. All I knew is that you always wanted Munson on your side.

Then one day my 13-year-old self was sitting along the first base line at The Stadium watching my heroes play. Munson hit a routine ground ball, and he loafed to first at half speed. The fans booed. Munson gave us the finger.

I had one fewer hero.