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For Yankee fans, catcher Thurman Munson remains a sentimental standout among the storied lineup of George Steinbrenner’s late '70s Bronx Zoo dynasty of Yankee baseball, when the team made it to three consecutive World Series, winning in '77 and '78. Former Yankee Public Relations Director Marty Appel was the ghostwriter on Munson's autobiography, and now, three decades later, returns to his legendary subject in the biography, Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain.

As a Yankee insider, Appel keeps Munson, "the heart and soul of a world championship team," in a mostly positive light, though he does reveal more sensational elements of Munson's troubled childhood in Canton, Ohio, where his emotionally abusive father criticized him right up to the end of his short life, even chewing out the casket at Munson's funeral. Appel documents Munson's career as a scholarship athlete at Kent State, his time in the Cape Cod league, and his quick ascension to the major leagues and the Yankees, where he won Rookie of the Year in 1970 and was eventually made team captain, the first player to hold the title since Lou Gehrig. His blue-collar work ethic and gruff but lovable demeanor made him an instant fan favorite (a shot of him making a tag at home plate was the first action photo used in a Topps baseball card). And during that Bronx Zoo era, gloriously depicted in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning, it was the down-to-earth Munson who balanced out (and butted heads with) his flashy teammate Reggie Jackson. After Jackson made his infamous "I'm the straw that stirs the drink" comments in a Sport magazine interview, Munson was asked if Jackson was quoted out of context. Munson's reply: "For three pages?"

Munson was only 32 when he was killed after the plane he was piloting crashed in Canton, Ohio, on August 2, 1979. Despite so many bitter memories of Ohio, it's where he ended up marrying and starting a family, and part of the reason he learned how to fly was to be able to increase visits to his family from New York. Even though he was a relatively inexperienced pilot, he quickly worked his way up from a two-piston engine to a jet. And pilot error was eventually cited as the reason for the crash, which occurred while practicing touch-and-go-landings. At the home-opener the day after his death, when No. 15 was retired, there was a ten-minute standing ovation in memory of the Yankee catcher. Munson was never inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but Marty Appel's biography remains a fitting tribute. --Brad Thomas Parsons

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review by . January 11, 2011
posted in Just Baseball
This book presents a lot of interesting information on the personality of one of the most quirky Yankees of all time. Most Yankee fans remember the outspoken Reggie as well as Goose, and Martin of the Yankee teams of the 70's but can barely remember any interviews with Munson and until his tragic plane crash, knew very little about his personal life.     Munson had a very rough childhood with a physically abusive and usually absent father. He was expected to finish school and …
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