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Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain
By Marty Appel
Doubleday, 2009

With the title of “captain” and pinstripes comes enormous responsibility. The title has been granted to a Yankee player that richly deserves it. Thurman Munson was no exception to this rule.

August 2nd will be the thirtieth anniversary of the untimely death of  #15, and to honor this occasion, longtime baseball lifer and former Yankees media director Marty Appel has written his second book –this one a biography – on Munson to be released by Doubleday on July 7.

In Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, Appel illustrates the life of Munson from his birth in Akron and his ascent to schoolboy stardom in Canton and his exploits in college that led to his signing with the Yankees in 1969.

No one is a better authority on Munson than Appel. In 1977, Appel co-authored with Munson his autobiography the year after he won the AL MVP award. Appel has been privy to details about Munson’s life, his family, and his close friends.

In writing this new book, Appel has added many new details about Munson’s childhood that were not originally printed in the 1977 autobiography. For reasons Appel did not fully understand, Munson was very uncomfortable talking about his childhood. Now nearly thirty years later, Appel went back to the source and talked with Munson’s siblings – particularly his brother Duane– about their experiences with their parents, especially an irreparable relationship with their father, Darrell.

Appel writes, “the story Munson didn’t tell is how his childhood had in fact prepared him for the Bronx Zoo.” His own experiences with his often-absent father led little Thurman to find solace elsewhere and that was on sporting fields. Munson excelled in everything he got his hands on – football, basketball, handball, baseball, and even golf and bowling.

With anecdotes from the Munson siblings, Appel illustrates the exploits of Thurman as he grew up in Canton and his desire to stay close to his childhood sweetheart, Diana and go to Kent State University.

Munson signed with the Yankees in 1969 and was the heart and soul of the team for ten years. Appel chronicles the yearly tribulations and successes Munson endures and shows the true grit this Buckeye was made of. Munson was hard on himself, moody to the media, but loyal to his fans and his team. That was what mattered most to Munson. His team.

And his family.

That’s what led Munson to start taking flying lessons and become a licensed pilot. With that freedom, he could fly back and forth between New York and his home in Canton to be with his wife and three children.

Including new excerpts from Jerry Anderson and others who recounted the days leading to and the day of Munson’s death, Appel chronicles Munson’s last days and the grief of his Yankee teammates, particularly close friends Bobby Murcer and Lou Piniella.

The chapters of the book that pull my heart strings and made my eyes well up were the ones that showed the emotions of his teammates once they found out of Thurman’s death and the days afterwards, leading up to the funeral in Canton.

There is no better authority than Appel to write this book and for a Yankee purist or a lover of the game, it is a very well-crafted read that will make you appreciate the hard work and grit that defined Thurman Munson, the great Yankee captain of the 1970s.