A former PR director for the New York Yankees celebrates the life of catcher Thurman Munson (1947–1979), who died in a plane crash at the age of 32.
Appel, who has authored and ghostwritten biographies of other baseball notables—including Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver and Munson (in his 1978 autobiography)—does not restrain his admiration for his subject. From the praise of Munson’s “Ohio grit and guts” to a later characterization of him as “the heart and soul of a world championship team” to the 70 maudlin pages that deal with the aftermath of the accident, the book is more tribute than biography. Appel charts the quick rise of Munson, a gifted athlete from Canton, Ohio, who played very little in the minor leagues before his promotion to the Yankees. We learn about his marriage—several times the author assures us that Diana Munson was the prettiest girl in town—his children, his giant mansion, his erratic and bitter father and, of course, his airplanes and fearlessness of flying. There are the obligatory accounts of heroic moments, rivalries with Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, many awards (1970 AL Rookie of the Year, three Gold Gloves, 1976 AL MVP) and interminable testimonials from former teammates, rivals and managers. Appel does not shy from comparing Munson with fallen former Presidents McKinley (also from Canton) and JFK, and he glosses over the darker moments in his subject’s life, including a night in the Yankee parking lot when he fired his handgun at persons he thought had vandalized a teammate’s car. Some crass final pages include auction prices for Munson memorabilia.