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on July 8, 2009
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 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, talk about pure exhilaration...that was it.

Being such a Munson fan, I was (and still am) very interested in learning more about him. And, for the last three decades or so, I've been waiting for the ultimate book covering the entire story of Thurman Munson.

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 book 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.

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."
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on July 12, 2009
This is author Marty Appel's second Thurman Munson biography. The first biography was written in 1977 two years before Munson's tragic death... and Munson's verbal response to the original proposal was: "Who writes a biography when you're twenty-nine-years-old?" After Munson was laid to rest... his wonderful wife Diane thanked Marty for what turned out to be such a special keepsake for the family for years to come. As we approach the thirtieth anniversary of the August 2, 1979 crash of Thurman's personal jet that he himself was piloting... the author felt it was time to unseal the mysterious pieces to the puzzle that was Munson... that wasn't covered in the first biography. There were boundaries in the original biography that the author wasn't allowed to cross or investigate. Most baseball fans when they thought of Munson as a person... saw a scruffy... stocky... moody... walrus mustachioed... distant personality... who hated and mostly ignored the media. They also saw a guy that represented the everyday hardworking average American Joe. Not your handsome... strapping... Mickey Mantle type image. And as a player... any baseball fan that knew which end of a baseball bat was up... saw... a player that would never quit... a player that was the leader on the field... one of the best clutch hitters of his era... one of the best fielding catchers in the big leagues until injuries starting tearing him down. Nowadays these multi-million-dollar players sit out a game with a hang nail. All the Yankee players knew that if Thurman could hobble... he would play... so they knew they couldn't wimp out. When Munson heard a teammate complain about an injury he would say... "SO, RETIRE!" That's what defines a leader... and because of those qualities... Thurman was named the first Yankee team captain since Lou Gehrig.

The author investigates Munson's family life and uncovers an awful relationship with his Father Darrell Munson... which helps explain why Thurman on the surface was so grumpy. When Thurman married Diane... he found in Diane's family... the love that he didn't know could really exist in a family. At the time of Thurman's death... Father and son had not seen each other nor communicated in years. The picture that the author paints of Munson's Father can be summarized by what transpired at the cemetery at Thurman's gravesite: "DARRELL MUNSON APPROACHED THE COFFIN AND SAID, "YOU ALWAYS THOUGHT YOU WERE TOO BIG FOR THIS WORLD. WELL, YOU WEREN'T!"... "LOOK WHO'S STILL STANDING, YOU S.O.B.!"

Yet despite this "lack" of a Father-Son relationship... the most important thing in Thurman's life was his family. In fact the importance Thurman put on his family... can easily be seen as what ultimately led to his death. He started learning how to fly in order to be able to get home quicker... and more frequently... for the sole purpose of spending more time with his family. Then he upgraded to larger and faster planes... perhaps too quickly... without enough flying experience... to cut time off of the flights home. In fact the final accident report on his fatal plane crash that was released by the NTSB in September 1979 stated that "STARTLING MISTAKES" BY THURMAN CAUSED THE CRASH.

This book also shares in intimate... precise... detail... the excruciating days before... during... and after the funeral. It also imparts the deep love and friendship that teammates shared with Thurman... especially with Lou Piniella... Bobby Murcer... Catfish Hunter... and manager Billy Martin. Not all fans may be aware that there were two survivors on Munson's final flight... and one survivor who hadn't talked about those final minutes for a quarter-of-a-century... discusses the crash and the final words that Thurman Munson would ever speak. This is a well written... excellently detailed commentary on the fabled Yankee Captain.
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on August 30, 2015
Awesome find. When you are speaking Yankees history, Munson is that. My nephew loves Yankees history and loves to read, figure. It was great to find this title somewhere and with the help of Amazon 3rd party vendors. He was so happy and delighted to be able to get this to read this summer. Priceless.
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on July 9, 2012
I'm a long time MLB Yankee fan and have many Yankee heroes. I wanted to learn about the late great NY Yankee catcher Thurman Munson.

Marty Appel has wrote a better than good book on the late great NY Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. The book is a 376 page burner. I read it in three days. Some nice B/W pictures too. The book reads smooth with no boring parts. The reader wants to read on. Marty was the Yankees PR director and got to know Thurman well and got a lot of research for this book.

We see Thurman and his two sisters and brother growing up in Canton, Ohio and having problems with their father who was a long distance truck driver. Plus some problems with their mother but nowhere as much as with their father. All leave the family as soon as they can either going to school, job or on their own. We see his father as verbally abusive and not a very loving father. Their mother let the father do the discipline when he came home many times with the belt. The father is shown as a real jerk.

We see Thurman as a very good HS athlete in many sports especially baseball. He gets a scholarship to Kent State. He excels in baseball and gets in the minors and eventually to the NY Yankees. We see him originally as a shortstop in High school/college and eventually developing into a great catcher for the NY Yankees with power and a good average. We see him winning Rookie of the year and later MVP. He was given the title and responsibility for being the Captain of the Yankees by manager Billy Martin with owner George Steinbrenner suggesting Martin decide if he wanted a Captain.

We see the epic battles the Yankees had against other ball clubs. We see the great rivalry between Thurman and Carton Fisk the catcher for the Red Sox. Both great competitive catchers.

Thurman is shown as a gruff but loving man who sometimes got grumpy with some players and the media especially when he was in pain. We see him wanting to be paid for what he was worth and wanted to be the highest paid Yankee. We see owner Steinbrenner implying that until Reggie Jackson becomes a Yankee. We see some INMO jealousy in regards to salary.

Thurman did great in AL championship play... .339 average and led the Yankees to 3 World Series with a .373 average. He had MLB 113 HRs with a .292 average. He played with the Yankees less than 11 years and in the end his knees and legs were giving out and he played in great pain due to many injuries and the hard joint stress due to catching. A very good player on the borderline of HOF. He did not make HOF.

We see him marring his loving wife and having kids. Thurman is shown as family man who loved his wife and kids. We see Thurman becoming a private pilot and quickly passing his tests (INMO too quickly) and eventually is legally able to fly his $1.5 million dollar jet. He wanted this fast plane so he could get home quickly to be with his family. Many, many people plead to Thurman not to be flying airplanes especially this fast jet. He was only a pilot for 1 1/2 years and had only less than 40 hours experience flying the jet after being certified by his instructor and the FAA. Too quickly passing his tests and not much experience especially in jets. We see the crash landing with two passengers( fellow business real estate partner and a plane instructor..not jets ) Thurman crashes as the plane sinks and does not go up fast enough on full throttle. The two passengers survive with severe injuries while Thurman had a broken neck, trapped in his busted seat and died of smoke inhalation and toxic vapors. Just too much plane and not enough experience.

We see the viewing and funereal with many Yankee players, manager and management and Thurman's many friends. A sad sad ending.
The reader really develops empathy with the death of Thurman, and his young wife and young children left with no dad. The Yankees do give the family $1.3 million dollars left of his contract.

A good book and added to our baseball book collection. 4 1/3 stars.
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on June 4, 2010
Much has been written about the turbulent period of New York Yankees baseball that many have referred to as the Reggie Jackson Era. While Jackson was the self-proclaimed "straw that stirs the Yankees drink", Thurman Munson may well have been the cocktail napkin that kept the drink from making a mess on that nice coffee table. He was the much needed quiet, stablizing force on the field and in the clubhouse; he didn't like disruption. He didn't like Jackson or George Steinbrenner, for that matter. Thurman Munson just wanted to play ball; forget the soap opera that was Yankees baseball. Just play the game the way it was meant to be played - hard.

It's been over thirty years since Thurman Munson died in that plane crash, and not much has been written about him that reveals very much about his personality, probably since he made it a point to speak rarely, while carrying a steady stick. Nothing much stands out about his demeanor that would cause much of a stir; especially three decades after his passing. Marty Appel provides a thorough, workman-like perspective on this blue collar Yankees captain.

In the end, Munson played the game hard; the way it was meant to be played. While others grabbed the headlines, he grabbed his gear and his bat, and went about his business of keeping his team on top of their game. Whatever he did worked quite well for over a decade. That's not a bad legacy for such a quiet man.
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on December 2, 2015
As a youngster in the 1970's my favorite baseball team, following my family tradition in New Jersey, was the New York Yankees. My favorite player was Thurman Munson and I remember being absolutely devastated the day he died. Part of my childhood innocence went with him, too, as I slowly lost interested in the Yankees and never could rekindle the love and idolization for a single player as I had for Munson. He was my sports hero that was tragically taken from his family, his sport, his team, and his fans.
Marty Appel's biography of Munson brought back a lot of memories of the Yankees and those great teams of the mid-70's. He paints an honest, thorough, and not always flattering portrait of the Yankee Captain. While the title of the book correctly portrays its contents I was surprised to see so much attention paid to the last 2 weeks of Munson's life, the tragic crash, and the aftermath. It almost seemed like he glossed over much of Thurman's life; only about half the book covers his life and career while the rest is about the tragedy. I finished the story feeling pretty depressed after the endless recollections by friends, family, and teammates about their emotions at the time of his passing. I would have preferred more stories and detail about his baseball career; particularly in regards to his time with the Yankees.
All that being said, I feel I definitely got to know Thurman the man through recollections of his family and others close to him. I never knew what harsh man his father was and how estranged Thurman was from his own family. Being somewhat of a curmudgeon myself I had to laugh at some of Munson's antics and can understand his need to wall himself off from the media in an effort to keep his privacy.
I would like to thank Mr. Appel for a very honest and moving biography of my favorite sports figure. While the second half of the book was definitely sad it illustrated what a revered figure Thurman Munson was; how he was loved and/or respected by nearly everyone he came into contact with. I am glad to see that, as a young boy, I couldn't have picked a better sports hero: hard working, dedicated, a leader, and a superior teammate.
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on November 29, 2015
I expected better writing from Marty Appel. The story bounced around a lot and seemed disjointed to me. It seemed like he would follow a topical line on Munson, then switch off randomly to something unrelated about a teammate. Although ultimately he told the story of Munson, it was a tough read. I've read much better biographies by other authors.
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on September 11, 2009
As a NY Yankee fan for many years, and being that Thurman Munson was my favorite player I was very interested in this book. The book was an easy read and an enjoyable journey through Thurman's life, both personal and professional. It showed great insight by his fellow teammates and friends and family on his life. It is a book that can be enjoyed by any baseball fan
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on January 19, 2016
Thurman Munson was, justifiably, a Yankee legend. MVP, catcher, World Champion, team captain, he played the game with fire, intensity, determination, and pride. He exemplified many of the Yankee traditions of ferocity on the field, leading by example. Off the field he was gruff, hard, and short with the media, which ironically endeared him to the hard-bitten working-class New Yorkers, who have little time or tolerance for frivolity.

For people like me, who grew up as teenagers with Thurman as the Yankee catcher, he was an overlooked god. Behind the plate, in his cap (not like today's catchers in their hockey goalie masks), he framed pitches and led pitchers. At bat, he was the definition of a clutch hitter. He wanted to be judged by what he did, not what he said. When he died in a tragic and ghastly plane crash, a City was plunged into mourning, the guts were torn out of a frayed team, and a large number of teenagers' childhoods ended.

Marty Appel ghosted Thurman's autobiography after the 1978 season, not knowing that the clock was running out. It was a fairly routine sports autobiography, as Thurman wanted to keep most of his life in the shadows. It stressed his baseball life, his love of his family, and some of his difficulties with his teammate Reggie Jackson.Marty had an advantage. He had been the Yankees' PR man during the 1970s, and knew Thurman well. Thurman trusted him to tell his story and not tell his story.

When Marty Appel took up his quill pen or computer to write Thurman's definitive biography decades later, therefore, he was uniquely qualified to do so, because of the prior history. Unburdened by his subject looking over his shoulder, Marty gave us the full story, which showed that there was more to Thurman than mere line drive base hits and gruffness.

Thurman had overcome a horrific father and dysfunctional childhood to become an excellent husband and father. Even at the funeral, Thurman's father found ways to try to humiliate his son. The burly catcher tried his hand at writing poetry. He was a man of very simple tastes -- "Three Stooges" shorts, Burger King, and reading to his kids.

His passion for flying led to his death -- the book reveals for the first time what happened in the final, fatal flight, and there's little reason to believe that he made errors, but tried to save the lives of his passengers.

It also reveals for the first time what happened when former teammate Tippy Martinez faced Bobby Murcer in the game after the funeral in the bottom of the ninth inning -- incredibly, no reporter or fan asked Martinez about his pitch sequence that night, then or ever.

After that, Marty discusses Thurman's long impact on the Yankees -- how his locker was preserved, his "Yankeeography" is the most popular of the vast array, and the casting and work of Erik Jensen as Thurman in "The Bronx is Burning." Jensen himself provides an amusing account of his work in that role. He also talks about Thurman's family -- a widow raising children without a father, children raising grandchildren, new generations of Munsons.

Marty concludes with analysis and speculation: where does Thurman fit in the Yankee and Hall of Fame pantheon, would he have gone to Cleveland as he wanted to be with a team closer to his family, would he have managed the Yankees instead of the Billy Martin circus.

The end is extremely touching...what would it be like if Thurman attended a modern Old-Timer's Day...based on his deep knowledge of the catcher, Marty gives us a somewhat heavier and grayer Thurman trotting out slowly to the first-base line to greet equally heavier and grayer former teammates, joking around with catching successor Jorge Posada and captain successor Derek Jeter (who both worship him), in a cheerful, jocular mood, his struggles behind him. At some levels, he's doing that now, yakking it up at the Original Yankee Stadium with his predecessors.

But the book ends with a neat zinger directly from Marty's and Thurman's own life...perhaps at this fictional Old Timer's Day, a Yankee intern would be sent to the clubhouse, to dig Thurman out from in front of the TV set, where he's rooted to a "Three Stooges" rerun.

It's just one of the greatest baseball biographies I ever read, about one of my favorite Yankees of them all.
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on January 10, 2016
I just finished reading this book over the weekend (01/09/2016). It has transported me back to 1979, to the moment when I was sitting on the couch in my girl-friend's apartment, watching the news with her after a night of buffing and waxing supermarket floors. I could not have been more stunned if Austin had been bombed by an invading country. I can't do better than a cliche'. Thurman Munson was a larger-than-life personality. Perhaps his larger-than-life persona was the ironic result of being greatly at odds with this aspect of his nature. He was a force-of-nature who tried to fight the force. But it was what it was. He was the first captain of the Yankees since Lou Gehrig, when Joe McCarthy had retired the captain role in Gehrig's honor, in effect so that Gehrig would be the eternal captain of the Yankees. It took Thurman Munson to inspire a Yankee owner to override the McCarthy rule.

The grief that hit me when I saw that he had been killed in a plane crash that day was resurrected as I read this book. Perhaps this is a testimonial to the writing talents of Marty Appel, who also bore witness to Munson as few have done, as a friend, professional collaborator, and steward of Yankee management responsibilities to players. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I read the original edition of Appel's earlier biography of Munson when he was 29, and the reissue of that book as a memorial edition that added post-mortem material. But this book - while doubtless building on the earlier work - adds much new material gleaned from significant additional research. If I was particularly startled to learn about Munson's early family history - which he declined to discuss with anyone, including Appel - before his death, it must be due in part to the way Appel subtly conveys his own amazement, or dismay, at the revelations. One might venture to say that Munson's early history helped to contribute to his early death, at age 32, but you can't say that without also acknowledging the possibility that Munson wouldn't have lived the meteoric and spectacular life he lived without that early history. Appel makes it clear that Munson was much more than just a baseball player, which might be the exception in the realm of sports superstars.
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