Thurman Munson’s Decade of Unmatched Excellence

The Case for His Induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame

March 27, 2017

Christopher Hahn and Thomas Tunison

Photography by Michael Grossbardt

Nine Innings in Thurman Munson’s Hall of Fame Candidacy

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1st Inning

Starting Point

Foundational Points of Distinction in Thurman Munson’s Career

2nd Inning

Comparison with a First Ballot Hall of Famer

A Benchmark for Excellence Shared by Two Men

3rd Inning

Modern Baseball Statistics

Munson’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) Productivity

4th Inning

Postseason Batting

Munson’s Performance Compared with Hall of Fame Catchers

Munson’s Performance Amongst the 500 Players with the Most Postseason At Bats

5th Inning

Postseason Defense

Significant Munson Postseason Defensive Records That Went Unnoticed Munson’s Caught Stealing Performance in Each Postseason Series He Played In Top 10 Catchers All Time with the Most Postseason Base Runners Caught Stealing

Teams That Munson Faced in the Playoffs – The Top Base-Stealing Teams of the 1970s

6th Inning

Postseas on “Quality Points ” – A New Metric

Combining Postseason Offensive and Defensive Productivity by Catchers

Munson’s Overall Postseason “Quality Points” Productivity Compared with HOF Catchers

7th Inning

Hall of Fame Catchers in Postseason Series

Managers That Munson Faced in the Playoffs – Amongst the Best Baseball Minds in History

Records of All HOF Catchers in ALL Postseason Series AND Against HOF Managers

12 Times in History a HOF Catcher Won a Postseason Series Against a HOF Manager

5 Times That Thurman Munson’s Yankees Won a Postseason Series against a HOF Manager

8th Inning

An Important Moment i n hur man Munson’s Li fe

Sparky Anderson: Master Motivator

9th Inning

Limited Membership

A Unique Club of Nine All-Time Great Players

Extra Innings

Summarizing Thurman Muns on’s Hall of Fame Candida y Thurman Munson’s Enduring and Unique Contributions to Baseball Thurman Munson – Hall of Fame Catcher

Appendices (contain the below topics)

Key Reference Data

Appendix One: Best 10 Consecutive Years of WAR Productivity by Catchers All-Time (1000+ Games Caught)

Appendix Two: A Broader Look at Postseason “Quality Points” by Other Noteworthy Catchers

Appendix Three: The 21 Seasons in History When a Catcher Caught 120+ Games While Delivering 180+ Hits

The Research Process and Analytical Framework
Notes on Research Methodology and Data Sources

Summary Points on the Unique Achievements in Munson’s Career Which Are Outlined in this Article

“He was the best there was at what he did.”

Howard Cosell – August 6, 1979

Thurman Munson on August 7, 1969 – the day before his major league debut for the Yankees.

Preface

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.