1st Inning: Foundational Points of Distinction
To begin our review, let’s consider five cornerstone summary points on Thurman Munson’s career:
1) Munson’s 10 Year Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 45.6, beginning with his official rookie season in 1970,
has been outdone only by 6 Catchers in history! He is one of exactly 10 Catchers in baseball history to catch
1000+ games with 40+ WAR in a period of 10 consecutive years. Every man above him on the list of 10 players is in the Hall of Fame, and every other Catcher in history, in their own best 10 years, was not as efficient at contributing WAR as Thurman Munson!
2) Munson’s .357 postseason average is 94 points above the HOF Catcher average – with hits in 27 of 30 games!
3) Munson is the only Catcher in history to throw out at least 7 base runners Caught Stealing (CS) in 3 different postseasons, and the only Catcher to throw out at least 3 base runners CS in 6 different postseason series!
4) With 22 RBIs & 24 Defensive CS in 30 postseason games, Munson’s combination of RBIs per game and defensive CS per game is more than 50% higher than any Hall of Fame Catcher – no one else even comes close!
5) It is important to note, in the context of the above 3 postseason individual milestones, that every time Thurman stepped onto the field in the postseason his team was facing a Manager who was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame. We will show in great detail how unusual it is historically, even for Hall of Fame Catchers, to help lead their teams to victory against Hall of Fame Managers in the postseason. Munson faced the best and won!
These simple points indicate that Thurman Munson delivered not only a phenomenal and historically great regular season decade of excellence, but more importantly, he rose to the occasion in his team’s most critical games against some of the best minds in baseball history. Munson was generally known as a great leader amongst his teammates and in the broader baseball world at the time of his death, and yet some of his truly historical contributions to the game have very nearly been lost to history. This research effort and summary is designed to put Munson’s career into context and make a robust argument for why he deserves to be considered one of baseball’s all-time greats and welcomed into the Hall of Fame.