The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain
Anchor Books, Paperback, 9780767927550, 375pp.
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next … Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”
—Honorary plaque to Munson in Yankee Stadium
Thurman Munson is remembered by fans as the fiercely competitive, tough, and—most of all—inspiring Yankee captain and champion from the wild Bronx Zoo years. He is also remembered for his tragic death, at age thirty-two, when the private plane he was piloting crashed in Canton, Ohio, on August 2, 1979.
Munson is the intimate biography of a complex and larger-than-life legend. Written by former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel, who worked closely with Thurman throughout his career, Munson captures the little-known details of the young man from Canton and his meteoric rise to stardom in baseball’s most storied franchise. Appel examines the tumultuous childhood that led Thurman to work feverishly to escape Canton—and also the marriage and cultural roots that continually drew him back.
Appel also opens a fascinating door on the famed Yankees of the 1970s, recounting moments and stories that have never been told before. From the clubhouse and the dugout to the front office and the owner’s box, this thoughtful baseball biography delves into the affectionately gruff captain’s relationships with friends, fans, and teammates such as Lou Piniella, Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson, as well as his colorful dealings with manager Billy Martin and his surprisingly close bond with owner George Steinbrenner. Munson paints a revealing portrait of a private Yankee superstar, as well as a nostalgic and revelatory look at the culture—and amazing highs and lows—of the 1970s New York Yankees teams. More than a biography, Munson is the definitive account of a champion who has not been forgotten and of the era he helped define—written with the intimate detail available only to a true insider.
“Seldom does a biographer get a do-over. Appel, who collaborated with legendary New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson on a standard “then-we-played” sports bio in 1977, decided to revisit the subject nearly 30 years after Munson’s death in a plane crash in 1979. It was worth the effort. Appel, the Yanks public-relations director and Munson’s friend during the catcher’s years with the team, digs a lot deeper this time. The product of a harsh blue-collar upbringing in Ohio, Munson was not a simple man. He was capable of great loyalty, perpetual enmity, profound kindness, and arrogant egotism toward the press and sometimes–not always–the fans. His father resented his son’s success, and the two were estranged most of Thurman’s adult life. This time around Appel researches the life of a man, not a sports hero, and emerges with a textured portrait of a flawed but likable individual, often angry and bitter, occasionally an ass, but ultimately worthy of our respect, on and off the field. The best biographies recount the public life, reveal the private life, and give readers a sense of the critical intersection between the two. Appel manages all three and deserves high praise for keeping one of baseball’s most intriguing players in the forefront.”
--Booklist (starred review)
“Marty Appel’s examination of Thurman Munson’s traumatic life and controversial death is fascinating. The detail is amazing, and there’s an anthology’s worth of illuminating quotes. The glimpses of George Steinbrenner behind the scenes are priceless. As a longtime New York Yankee “insider,” Appel knew Munson intimately, knew his family, knew his teammates and knew–knows–almost everyone of importance in Munson’s often difficult life. An extraordinary book.”
--Robert Creamer, bestselling author of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life
"Only Marty Appel could do justice to this fallen leader; a man who, a generation after his death, continues to inspire all who learn about him. Bravo, Marty, for every page!"
--Suzyn Waldman, NY Yankees Radio Broadcaster
“If the measure of a great biography is the amount of new, previously un-mined material on the subject, then Marty Appel has hit a grand slam home run with this definitive portrait of Thurman Munson. Thirty years after Thurman's tragic death, we finally get the whole story of a very complex and private man. You don't even have to be a Yankee fan to find this a compelling read.”
--Bill Madden, New York Daily News
“Thirty years after teaming with Munson on the Yankee catcher's autobiography, Appel comes back to finish the ultimately sad tale. No one else could have written this book. No one else could have written it better. Great stuff.”
--Leigh Montville, New York Times bestselling author of The Big Bam and Ted Williams
"Told through the voice of a friend and colleague for whom the death of the Yankee captain was a personal and a professional loss, Marty Appel's incisive and insightful biography of Thurman Munson is not just another sports book. It is a gift to baseball!"
-- Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
"Thurman Munson was the heart and soul of a team that transitioned from also-ran to champion. Marty Appel lived those years with the captain from the inside and now gives us a rare and intimate look at this remarkable, legendary Yankee. This is a must read for any baseball fan."
--Michael Kay, YES Network, ESPN Radio
“Appel, former Yankee PR director and coauthor of Thurman Munson’s 1978 autobiography, offers a comprehensive study of the enigmatic Yankee catcher. Appel details Munson’s rough relationship with his father, his tumultuous years with the Yankees, the fatal crash, and the ensuing funeral….Highly recommended for Yankees and Munson fans.”
-- Library Journal
"Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain" …is spectacular. If you can get through this book without getting choked up, then you possess impressive resolve.…[W]ith Appel as a first-hand witness, you get great inside information on the '70s Yankees. And incredible details on the days immediately following Munson's plane crash. Sorry to be so over the top. It's just fantastic.
--Ken Davidoff’s Baseball Insider on Newsday.com