Thurman Munson, a Yankees Legend Remembered

I’m just back from the DHL All-Star FanFest in New York City where I spent a day with cameraman Matt Kohn shooting video about antiques and collectibles for the WorthPoint site. Besides baseball, my other passion is collecting, buying and selling antiques and collectibles. I love the excitement of a live auction, and as a baseball diehard, the FanFest was a match made in heaven.

I’m a lifelong Yankee fan, and baseball is my sport. Of course, I’m not the only fan. This was a record year with more than 130,000 fans attending the FanFest at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan—about 5,000 more than last year’s event in San Francisco.

Just one of the many items for sale

While FanFest has something for all ages and interests, I was drawn to the live on-the-premises auction sponsored by Hunt Auctions. I was looking over all the lots that were being offered and was especially intrigued by the personal collection of Thurman Munson. Munson, as most baseball fans know, was the beloved captain of the Yankees in the late 1970s, and he was the first official team captain since Lou Gehrig, a true honor in the Yankee tradition.

As I was examining the auction items, I was extremely fortunate to meet Diana and Michael Munson. Diana is Thurman’s widow, and Michael is his son. I asked if I could interview her and was extremely thrilled when she agreed.

Diana Munson and Dan Borsey

We stood next to a feature piece of Thurman’s collection. It was a replica 1978 World Series trophy presented to Thurman by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Thurman was team captain in the magical ’78 campaign.

Instead of a ring, Thurman requested a trophy, and the gracious Steinbrenner granted this request. Thurman tragically perished the following season in a plane crash. It was a very sad experience for his family, the Yankees, and the entire baseball world. Thurman was a warrior on the field and a teddy bear off. He was a gritty player, who married his childhood sweetheart and held his family higher than any achievement he ever achieved professionally.

Even today, hearing and reading about the reaction to his death by fans across the country gives a guy like me chills, for example this description in his Wikipedia biography.

“Munson’s sudden death was major news across the nation and especially within the baseball community. Munson was survived by his wife, Diana, and their three children. The day after his death, before the start of the Yankees’ four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx, the Yankees paid tribute to their deceased captain in a pre-game ceremony during which the starters stood at their defensive positions, save for the catcher’s box, which remained empty. At the conclusion of Robert Merrill’s musical selection, the fans (announced attendance 51,151) burst into a 10-minute standing ovation.”

Diana Munson decided instead of taking on the daunting task of dividing her husband’s collectibles between children and grandchildren, an auction to celebrate his life and legacy was the way to go.

The FanFest crowd had plenty of eager buyers and was very appreciative of this collection, judging by their bids. The trophy was Lot 305, and the hammer fell at $195,000 + 10% buyer’s premium. The lucky winner of this treasure was Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods. He plans to share the trophy with baseball fans by displaying it at all the chain’s stores. Fans will have the opportunity to be photographed with the Munson trophy.

The DHL All-Star FanFest was a once-in-a-lifetime day for me. I would like to thank Diana and Michael Munson for their insight into Thurman’s life. I hope they know that baseball purists, like me, will always treasure these collectibles and Thurman’s legacy. Thurman Munson will forever be remembered in the hearts of Yankee and baseball fans worldwide. I can’t help but think that Thurman Munson would be proud of Diana for sharing his collection, life and legacy and grateful for his many fans.

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