Yankees Mt Rushmore – The Jefferson Position
Adam – Since 1954 players have had to wait five years after they retired to be Hall of Fame eligible. In a few instances, the writers have waived the rule. Roberto Clemente in a special election in March 1973, months after his death, Rod Beck and Cory Lidle are some other examples that have all also appeared on Hall of Fame ballots early after their untimely deaths. So too did Thurman Munson. During Munson’s career, 1969 to 1979, the only catcher better by Wins Above Average was Johnny Bench, and Johnny Bench is considered by many to be the best catcher in the history of baseball (of course for me it is still Yogi Berra as a 1A and 1B). Munson was a playoff stud as well compiling a career .357 batting average in the post-season. Without him, it is possible the great Yankees teams of the late 1970s might never have won it all.
“The Boss” named him Captain of the Yankees, and he was the first since Lou Gehrig. That says so much and it is arguably the best baseball decision George Steinbrenner ever made. We will never know how great his career could have been but even cut short, he is one of the greatest Yankees of the last 50 years and all-time. He squarely belongs on a Yankees Mt Rushmore of the last 50 years.
Rich –There have been many great catchers in Yankees history; namely Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey at the top two spots. Thurman Munson comes in at third on that list and was the heart and soul of the Yankees of the 1970s. He was the first Yankees Captain since Lou Gehrig and tragically died in 1979 in a plane crash. He was a Rookie of the Year and MVP winner and was one of the best catchers in MLB in the 1970s. Munson is simply forgotten in baseball history because he isn’t in the Hall of Fame (though I think he should be) and because he played at a time when Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk were considered better catchers (though I would put Munson very close to Fisk during the 1970s). Munson is arguably the fan favorite of the 1970s, even though Reggie Jackson was “louder” and had bigger moments, Munson was the workhorse and the Captain.