On this date, August 2, 1979, Yankees Captain Thurman Munson, 32, died at Canton, Ohio, in a crash of the plane he was piloting.
It’s a perfect day to remember one of the greatest cards Topps has ever put out, Thurman’s first full Topps card (he was paired with Dave McDonald on a 1970 ‘Rookie Stars’ card).
1971 was the first year Topps ever used action shots, and Munson’s card shows him as he is best remembered – hanging tough in a could of dust, taking on a sliding runner. In this case he’s applying a hard tag on Oakland A’s pitcher Chuck Dobson during a game at Yankee Stadium in 1970. Dobson won 16 games that year, and went 15-5 in 1971 before developing arm trouble.
The card also celebrates Munson’s Topps All-Rookie status – he was named 1970 American League Rookie of the Year, batting .302 with 25 doubles and catching 51% of would-be base stealers. In 1971 he led AL catchers with a 61% caught-stealing %. The Yankee Captain went on to win three Gold Gloves, was named to seven All-Star teams, was the 1976 AL Most Valuable Player, and led New York to three pennants and two World Championships. Thurman batted .357 over 30 post-season games.
The card marks a fantastic start to a legendary career in a life that was cut tragically short at just 32 years old. Thurman Munson will always occupy a special place in the hearts of not only Yankees fans, but all fans who appreciate the game played the right way.
Joe Gersbeck is a baseball historian and lifetime fan/student of the game who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. His new book, 1970s All-Star Baseball: A History of the Decade’s All-Star Games was just released on Amazon:
His bestselling 1970s Baseball: A History and Analysis of the Decade’s Best Seasons, Teams, and Players is available on Amazon, B&N, and iBooks: