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Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain
By Marty Appel
Doubleday, 2009

With the title of “captain” and pinstripes comes enormous responsibility. The title has been granted to a Yankee player that richly deserves it. Thurman Munson was no exception to this rule.

August 2nd will be the thirtieth anniversary of the untimely death of  #15, and to honor this occasion, longtime baseball lifer and former Yankees media director Marty Appel has written his second book –this one a biography – on Munson to be released by Doubleday on July 7.

In Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, Appel illustrates the life of Munson from his birth in Akron and his ascent to schoolboy stardom in Canton and his exploits in college that led to his signing with the Yankees in 1969.

No one is a better authority on Munson than Appel. In 1977, Appel co-authored with Munson his autobiography the year after he won the AL MVP award. Appel has been privy to details about Munson’s life, his family, and his close friends.

In writing this new book, Appel has added many new details about Munson’s childhood that were not originally printed in the 1977 autobiography. For reasons Appel did not fully understand, Munson was very uncomfortable talking about his childhood. Now nearly thirty years later, Appel went back to the source and talked with Munson’s siblings – particularly his brother Duane– about their experiences with their parents, especially an irreparable relationship with their father, Darrell.

Appel writes, “the story Munson didn’t tell is how his childhood had in fact prepared him for the Bronx Zoo.” His own experiences with his often-absent father led little Thurman to find solace elsewhere and that was on sporting fields. Munson excelled in everything he got his hands on – football, basketball, handball, baseball, and even golf and bowling.

With anecdotes from the Munson siblings, Appel illustrates the exploits of Thurman as he grew up in Canton and his desire to stay close to his childhood sweetheart, Diana and go to Kent State University.

Munson signed with the Yankees in 1969 and was the heart and soul of the team for ten years. Appel chronicles the yearly tribulations and successes Munson endures and shows the true grit this Buckeye was made of. Munson was hard on himself, moody to the media, but loyal to his fans and his team. That was what mattered most to Munson. His team.

And his family.

That’s what led Munson to start taking flying lessons and become a licensed pilot. With that freedom, he could fly back and forth between New York and his home in Canton to be with his wife and three children.

Including new excerpts from Jerry Anderson and others who recounted the days leading to and the day of Munson’s death, Appel chronicles Munson’s last days and the grief of his Yankee teammates, particularly close friends Bobby Murcer and Lou Piniella.

The chapters of the book that pull my heart strings and made my eyes well up were the ones that showed the emotions of his teammates once they found out of Thurman’s death and the days afterwards, leading up to the funeral in Canton.

There is no better authority than Appel to write this book and for a Yankee purist or a lover of the game, it is a very well-crafted read that will make you appreciate the hard work and grit that defined Thurman Munson, the great Yankee captain of the 1970s.

From Pete Abe:

The release from the Yankees:

The New York Yankees today acquired infielder/outfielder Eric Hinske from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with cash considerations in exchange for minor leaguer right-handed pitcher Casey Erickson and minor league outfielder Eric Fryer.

Hinske, 31, appeared in 54 games with the Pirates this season, batting .255 (27-for-106) with 18 runs, 9 doubles, 1 home run and 11RBI. He has played 13 games in right field, six games at first base and three games at third base, and has made 29 pinch-hit appearances, going 8-for-24 (.333) with 5 walks. Hinske was the Opening Day right fielder for the 2008 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, batting .247 (94-for-381) with 21 doubles, 20 home runs and 60 RBI, making 47 starts in right field, 37 in left field, nine at first base and four at third base. He was also a member of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in 2007.

Hinske was originally selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and made his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002, winning the American League “Rookie of the Year” award that season. The left-handed batter has compiled 196 doubles, 106 home runs and 410 RBI in 957 career Major League games with the Blue Jays (2002-06), Red Sox (2006-07), Rays (2008) and Pirates (2009).

Hinske will join the team in New York today. The Yankees will make a reciprocal roster move prior to tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. Seattle.

Erickson, 23, was 3-3 with a 2.25 ERA (44.0IP, 11ER) in 21 games (three starts) with Single-A Charleston in 2009. He combined to go 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 19 appearances (15 starts) with Charleston and short-season Single-A Staten Island in 2008, leading the Staten Island staff in innings pitched (75.0) and strikeouts (77). He was selected by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Springfield College.

Fryer, 23, appeared in 59 games with the Single-A Tampa Yankees this season, batting .250 (56-for-224) with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 24 RBI. He also collected a team-high 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Fryer was acquired by the Yankees on February 4, 2009, from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Chase Wright. He was originally selected by the Brewers in the 10th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Ohio State University.

With only 3 days left in the voting, Kevin Youkilis has taken over at first base. It ain’t over yet!

2009 MLB All-Star Balloting : American League

1st Base
Rank Player Name Team Total Votes
1. Kevin Youkilis Red Sox 1,915,303
2. Mark Teixeira Yankees 1,875,256
3. Justin Morneau Twins 1,560,530
4. Miguel Cabrera Tigers 1,139,804
5. Carlos Pena Rays 767,088

2nd Base
Rank Player Name Team Total Votes
1. Ian Kinsler Rangers 2,170,100
2. Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 2,163,270
3. Robinson Cano Yankees 1,245,065
4. Aaron Hill Blue Jays 892,006
5. Placido Polanco Tigers 809,976

3rd Base
Rank Player Name Team Total Votes
1. Evan Longoria Rays 2,988,363
2. Alex Rodriguez Yankees 1,354,319
3. Mike Lowell Red Sox 1,136,723
4. Michael Young Rangers 1,134,921
5. Brandon Inge Tigers 667,331

Shortstop
Rank Player Name Team Total Votes
1. Derek Jeter Yankees 3,046,813
2. Jason Bartlett Rays 1,419,499
3. Elvis Andrus Rangers 1,028,157
4. Marco Scutaro Blue Jays 807,199
5. Jed Lowrie Red Sox 576,629

Catcher
1. Joe Mauer Twins 2,851,819
2. Jason Varitek Red Sox 1,399,946
3. Jorge Posada Yankees 1,095,219
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia Rangers 1,002,391
5. Victor Martinez Indians 867,613

Outfield
Rank Player Name Team Total Votes
1. Jason Bay Red Sox 2,609,913
2. Ichiro Suzuki Mariners 1,802,826
3. Josh Hamilton Rangers 1,635,781
4. Torii Hunter Angels 1,490,800
5. Carl Crawford Rays 1,442,175
6. Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox 1,355,133
7. Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 1,204,863
8. Johnny Damon Yankees 1,175,539
9. Nelson Cruz Rangers 1,171,354
10. J.D. Drew Red Sox 1,050,112
11. Adam Jones Orioles 1,022,041
12. Nick Markakis Orioles 850,150
13. Curtis Granderson Tigers 798,786
14. Bobby Abreu Angels 733,329
15. Grady Sizemore Indians 714,902
Results updated: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Saturday, July 4, 2009, is the 70th Anniversary of the day that Lou Gehrig gave his famous last speech at Yankee Stadium.  The New York Times reported online today that Major Leage Baseball will have the speech read at every game this Saturday during the seventh inning stretch.

“It’s an honor to pay tribute to this American Legend,” commissioner Bud Selig said.  However, the purpose does go beyond simply honoring one of the greatest players in MLB history.  The league also hopes to raise awareness for ALS, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

When Gehrig gave the speech on July 4, 1939, no one knew that the great man was essentially giving his goodbye speech.  He played in 2,130 consecutive games before taking himself out of the lineup on May 2, 1939 due to his declining performance.  He never played baseball again.

The Yankees announced his retirement on June 21 and proclaimed July 4th “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”  Gehrig gave his famous speech between the games of a doubleheader that day.  During the ceremony, the Yankees retired his number 4, honoring him as the first player to ever have their number retired in MLB history.  Gehrig died nearly two years later, on June 2, 1941 at the age of 38.

Here is the famous speech:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins?  Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

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In an interesting move by Major League Baseball, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was named the co-AL Player of the Week along with outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

The Great Rivera was honored due to his three saves in three chances, along with 0 runs allowed and 6 strikeouts.  His third save was his 500th career (you’d know that already, unless you live under a rock) and that same night Rivera achieved his first RBI, earning a walk while the bases were loaded in the ninth inning Sunday night.

This is only the second time in a storied career that Rivera has won AL Player of the Week.  The first time was in June 2008.

Dye was very impressive last week hitting .500 (12-24) with 3 homers and 6 RBI.  All six games were multi-hit games and he had 25 total bases.  This was the sixth time he has received this award.

Rivera should have won the award outright considering his acheivement, but its hard to snuff out Dye considering the great week he had.  I think MLB faced a tough decision, but did make the right decision.  Dye earned it with 6 great games; Rivera only earned it because of a career achievement.

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