• Book Review: Marty Appel’s “Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain”

    Posted by on July 3rd, 2009 · Comments (9)

    Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain As I have shared in the past, when I was a youngster, I was a huge fan of Thurman Munson.

    To this day, if I close my eyes, I can quickly remember the feeling of sitting in Yankee Stadium, as a 13-year old, with my father, watching the Yankees play with Munson at bat and runners on base.

    During these moments, my heart would race – where it felt like it was about to jump out of my chest (because it was beating so hard and fast). Why? Because I wanted Thurman to come through…as he was “my guy.”

    And, more times than not, Munson did the job.

    It’s been so many years, but, in this memory, I can still see Munson slapping a line drive into right field, as if he was picking the ball out of opposing catcher’s mitt with his bat, waiting until the last minute to go the other way with the pitch, with Yankees runners rounding third and coming home to score…man, talk about pure exhilaration…that was it.

    Being such a Munson fan, I was (and still am) very interested in learning more about him.

    Granted, back in 1978, Thurman Munson did publish an autobiography (with Marty Appel). However, that was more of your typical “baseball biography” in the sense that it told us what Thurman wanted us to hear and is what many would consider to be a “comfortable” read. Plus, the book only covered the Thurman Munson story through the winter of 1977-78. And, we know that’s not where his story ends.

    Further, in 2001, Christopher Devine authored a biography “Thurman Munson.” However, while I found Devine’s book to be incredibly well sourced, I did not find the book to be “gripping” – and, for someone like me, a huge Munson fan, that’s a bad sign.

    Basically, for the last three decades or so, I’ve been waiting for the ultimate book covering the entire story of Thurman Munson. And, now, thanks to Marty Appel, with his new book “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain,” we have what I have been waiting for…all these years.

    With this new book – to be released on July 7, 2009 – Appel provides us with the complete account of Thurman Munson’s life and untimely passing…with no holds barred.

    With this work, we get to see the many facets of Munson’s life: Thurman as a ball player, a friend, the family man and a real estate entrepreneur. And, we get to see the good and the bad sides of the man. This includes getting to see Thurman as the everyday likeable guy who eats Oreos and milk for breakfast, watches the Three Stooges, sings commercial jingles to himself, has a terrible sense of fashion, and who would go out of his way to help people (with no fanfare whatsoever). But, we also get to see Thurman as someone who was somewhat insecure at times, cursed at sportswriters, gave the fans “the finger” during a game, cut many of the dysfunctional family members out of his life, and who once fired a gun in the Yankee Stadium parking lot.

    Also, with this biography, Appel provides a superior account of the complete Thurman Munson timeline – bringing us from Munson’s youth, through his time with the Yankees, to covering his tragic death in terms of the event itself and the impact it had on many (both inside and outside the Munson circle).

    But, what I enjoyed most about “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain” is how the story is told. In the book, Appel uses his own voice as well as those of many others who knew Thurman – including his teammates and friends. And, many of these sources are people who most were never aware (until now) as being a big part of Munson’s life or parties that you would not expect to have some insight on the Munson story.

    Also, I found this book to be acutely accurate with its facts and figures. Being diehard Yankees fan, as well as a long-time baseball fan in general, I am often a stickler about landmark baseball books (such as this one) being careful with the presentation of data – especially when it pertains to the Yankees (with that being my area of fan expertise). Related, the only issue I had with my review copy of this one could be found on page 128 where it said that Munson batted .435 in the 1976 World Series – when, actually, he batted .529 in that World Series and .435 was his batting average in the 1976 A.L.C.S. (But, this is a very small faux pas when you consider the amount of detail correctly stated in this book.)

    In summary, I would offer that “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain” is a must read for any Yankees fan over the age of forty, a highly recommended read for Yankees fans of any age, and a recommended read for anyone interested in baseball and a very well-done story about one of more notable players from the last half-century of the game’s history.

    This book will engross, entertain, enlighten and “touch” you all at the same time. It’s too bad that we had to wait 30 years for a book like this on Thurman Munson. But, now that its here, I cannot imagine a better one ever being done compared to the job Marty Appel did with “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain.”

    Comments on Book Review: Marty Appel’s “Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain”

    1. redbug
      July 3rd, 2009 | 6:03 pm

      Great review, Steve. I can’t wait to read the book.

      One of my clearest memories of Thurman is a funny one…He frequently spit in his batting helmet, then smushed it into his head. I can see him doing it like it was yesterday.

      Thurman was the first Yankee Captain since Gerhig. Throrouhly fitting.

    2. July 3rd, 2009 | 10:57 pm

      I will enjoy reading it, redbug – I’m sure. ;-)

    3. July 3rd, 2009 | 11:18 pm

      For those interested – here’s more early reports on this wonderful book…

      From Ed Valentine: ‘Munson’ is worth a read
      From Generation Third: Munson, A Book Review
      From Ken Davidoff: This book, “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain” is spectacular.
      And, from Richard Sandomir: Unleashed at Last, Author Digs Deeper Into Munson’s Life

    4. butchie22
      July 3rd, 2009 | 11:41 pm

      Steve, I remember the day that Munson died so vividly…damn have that many years passed? He was a really unique player even on a team of truly unique guys. It was a pleasure to have seen him play firsthand and I’m looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for the heads up………

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