Sunday, August 02, 2009

The LuLac Edition #895, Aug. 2nd, 2009

SNAPPLE "REAL FACT" #810, Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.



Thurman Munson was always a big part of my life. A baseball player younger than me being a big part of my existence? Yes. When the Yankees started to re-emerge I identified with Thurman who did his job, got down and dirty and was the ultimate team player. When Munson died I was working for a youth agency and nursing a broken engagement. I used the time to watch baseball with my father. We saw the game on Monday Night baseball when Thurman’s best friend, Bobby Murcer knocked in all 5 runs to beat Baltimore that night. Legend has it that Oriole hurler Tippy Martinez, a former Yankee and battery mate of Thurman grooved one to Murcer. Whatever. It became another part of Yankee lore. When I first met Mrs. LuLac in 1980, I was looking for a book on him in the Osterhout Library. She claims that when she saw me wandering aimlessly on the first floor (Melvil Dewey, his decimal system and I never were quite compatible) she knew this was the man she would marry. Yikes!
My first Old Timer’s Day as a sports reporter was in 1980, a year after Munson was gone. I was inches away from his widow and the three small kids as they meandered around in the Yankee dugout.
One time as I was sitting in the dugout, (this was maybe 1982) I saw Lou Piniella playing catch with then backstop Rick Cerone. When a tribute to Munson came on the big screen in the outfield, Lou stopped what he was doing and just stared at the screen. Our visits to Monument Park always included a stop by Munson’s plaque.
Whenever I’d go to Yankee Stadium, I’d have on my Munson tee shirt. As a matter of fact the last time I ran up and down the steps of the Stadium, on a dare from my buddies was 1999, two months before my car accident. There’s even film of it reminding me what I used to be physically; which is both cool and frustrating all at the same time. Every year, on August 2nd, I think of where I was in 1979. In a tiny office with a radio playing music and a bulletin coming on the air announcing Thurm’s death.
Throughout my career, in every job I ever had, I carried Thurman Munson with me. When reporters hectored him for his opinions on the tumultuous Yankees, his response was simple, “I’m just happy to be here”. Brilliant in its biting but non confrontational manner. Antiseptic but sarcastic. Throughout my career, when there was a big problem, a boss too stupid for words or someone who wanted to engage me in an argument or negativity, I’d quote Thurman and say, “I’m just happy to be here!” It said nothing and everything all at the same time. Last year during recovery from cancer surgery, I re-read the Munson bio. I also watched the Yankee-ography on his life. This summer I ordered Marty Appel’s great new book on Munson. It’s wonderful.
Today, as I write this I cannot help but think that Munson had he not died in that plane crash would be 62 today. I am older too as many of my friends are who cheered and mourned him. The youthful summers of our youth are celebrated, remembered and exaggerated. But they are tempered by that one summer of our young, formative adult years when everything seemed possible and ahead of us. Now, as the clock winds down on my baseball generation, we remember him as our icon. He, like Clemente remains forever young while we dotter on to our own mortality. Thurman Munson was not only a ball player, family man and possible Hall of Famer, he was a major part of our lives. And he will remain that way until every last one of my age group has gone to our own final destiny.


At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Yonki, I caught you on FB. I used to work with you at the pagan on line travel company. And I do remember you walking around when the crap started coming down warm and runny just saying "I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE!!!" Hysterical. Nice blog. Ring me, I'm sending you an e mail with the contact info.

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great commentary on a hard nosed player. He reflected that era.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

30 years. Whew. Where did the time go?

At 12:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece on Munson. Can it be that long ago? You read the bio so there might have been some mention, but word was in Cleveland that he always wanted to play at home. The Yanks had Great Catchers from Bill Dickey to Yogi to Elston Howard and Thurmon Munson. The man was one hell of a ballplayer and I believe a terrific teammate. They don’t make em like that anymore. By the way the Tribe traded a pretty good catcher this week and Cliff Lee showed whats possible right away.
I reacted by taking my Indians license plate off the car. I don’t think the Dolans are rich enough to own a franchise in MLB.


Post a Comment

<< Home