The Case for His Induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame
“He was the best there was at what he did.”
Howard Cosell – August 6, 1979
A New Look at History
The career of Thurman Munson is widely acknowledged to have been a great one. It is also commonly accepted that his life was cut too short by tragedy for him to have been realistically considered as a candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But to fully honor the memory of the man and give his contributions to baseball the comprehensive review they deserve, it is critical that we take a closer look at exactly what he did accomplish in his career.
When considered with a fresh perspective, a review of some of his key generally unknown but truly significant feats suggests that Thurman Munson did enough to be a Hall of Famer. In fact, such a review reveals clearly that he did more than enough to be considered among the all-time great players of the game. It is even arguable that Thurman Munson’s body of work in the 1970s, along with some of his forgotten but unique historical contributions, is among the most impressive decades of comprehensive play ever delivered by a Catcher in the history of baseball.
At the very least, a review of the data suggests that key contributions that Thurman Munson made to the game are not currently represented in Cooperstown by any Catcher. To put things succinctly, the difficulty and importance of the position of Catcher on the field requires that the Hall of Fame honor such a player who could “don the tools of ignorance,” endure the brutality of the most ferocious moments of the game, suffer the ever increasing wear and tear of the position on his joints, and then not only sustain great regular season performance as the months turned colder, but consistently rise to the occasion dramatically and unambiguously into the deepest part of the postseason in his team’s most critical games when league championships and world titles were on the line.
Thurman Munson is the only man whose contributions to the game at the Catcher position can so decisively fill that void both offensively and defensively. In advancing his Hall of Fame case we not only honor the memory of a truly great man, but we acknowledge tradition within the great game of baseball and the unique difficulties of perhaps its most important position more than 150 games into the season. Respect, both for the accomplishments of the man and the history of the game, demands nothing less. In short, as Howard Cosell said, “he was the best there was at what he did,” and now is the time to articulate exactly why that is a very reasonable statement.