He was the best that he could be
June 30, 2012
He was my favorite baseball player. During his era, he was the best at his position, the best at what he did. Consider the accomplishments in nine-plus years of Thurman Munson, New York Yankees captain:
• He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1970, batting .302.
• He won the Gold Glove Award in 1973, 1974 and 1975.
• He was the American League MVP in 1976.
• He was the first player since Ted Williams to hit .300 or higher and drive in 100 or more runs for three consecutive years (1975-1977).
• In three World Series (1976-1978), Munson hit .529, .320, .320 respectively. His lifetime World Series batting average is .373.
• He was an American League All-Star seven times.
• Five times he hit .300 or higher, and his lifetime batting average is .292. His lifetime batting average is higher than Hall of Fame catchers Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk.
Thurman Munson was a great athlete and possessed good speed for a catcher. Yet, one of my fondest baseball memories was watching him fight through the pain caused by his failing knees. He could barely stand, but there he was competing at the highest level. He was a champion with a lion’s heart. No one ever gave more. He led by example. He was a team player. He was a hard-nosed competitor with grit. He was baseball’s Mr. Clutch. If your team was down to its last out and needed a run batted in, you could ask for no more than to see Thurman Munson in the batter’s box.
New Testament authors, especially the Apostle Paul, illustrated spiritual truths with examples from athletics. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I think the Apostle Paul would’ve loved baseball, and he would have loved the way Thurman Munson played the game.
• The Rev. Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.