Along an epic path flecked with unparalleled success and fanfare, pinstriped heroes such as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle have met with acclaim that has gone hand-in-hand with World Series triumph. Among the most revered Bronx legends was a man cast from a different mold, former backstop Thurman Munson, who earned the respect of his peers (and the esteemed Yankee captaincy) during a rare lull in team fortunes. A constant on rosters that collectively bridged the gap from Mantle to a late-1970s return to glory, Munson earned MVP laurels (1976) and hit a robust .373 in 16 Fall Classic contests between 1976 and 1978 … before it ended all too soon.
Throughout the hobby, Yankee souvenirs carry varying degrees of appeal, the vast majority being celebratory reminders of a formidable dynasty. The offered baseball is a poignant reminder of a career and life cut short. Autographed by Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979, this baseball is, with high probability, the last item signed by the fallen Yankee legend.
The unofficial near-white sphere features a “Worth” trademark and is signed on the sweet spot by Munson. Executed in blue ballpoint pen, Munson’s flowing signature projects (“7-8”) strength and clarity.
Tabbed as the Yankees first baseman on Wednesday, August 1 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Munson coaxed a walk in the first inning and scored one batter later when Reggie Jackson launched a home run to straight-away center field. Having fanned in the top of the 3rd, Munson was lifted in favor of Jim Spencer and, unbeknownst to all, would never appear on a diamond again. In North Canton, Ohio the following afternoon on a Yankees off day, Munson paid a visit to a real estate office (he owned properties in North Canton) where a friend from his Kent State days worked. At approximately 3:00 p.m., Munson was departing for the Akron-Canton Airport to practice takeoffs and landings in his Cessna Citation jet. As he began to exit, his friend asked for an autographed baseball for her son, prompting Munson to open the trunk of his Mercedes 450, take out and sign this very ball and present it to his friend. Approximately one hour later, Munson’s aircraft skidded through an uncultivated field and slammed into a massive tree stump. There were, in fact, two passengers who miraculously survived the wreck, but Munson perished, engulfed in the flames.
The sentiment inherent to this keepsake is immeasurable, as were the intangibles that Munson brought to the clubhouse and diamond. In additional to a full photo LOA from James Spence Authentications, the item comes with a notarized letter from the original recipient, detailing the background and events of that fateful afternoon in Ohio.