Munson as Yankees manager? Could’ve happened
Diana Munson talked about an interesting topic before last night’s Thurman Munson awards dinner in Manhattan: had the tragic 1979 plane accident never occurred, George M. Steinbrenner had been touting Munson as a future manager, and he almost certainly would have received a chance to run the Yankees at some point.
“George said positively, he was grooming him,” Diana Munson said. “And I always laugh. I’d say, ‘How many times do you think George would have fired him?’
“They had that relationship anyway. It was almost like a father-son kind of deal. Thurman trusted him, believed in his business mind, and he would go up and throw out ideas. He’d put his feet up on the desk and act like a big shot. George got a kick out of that, because people didn’t do that to George. That’s my not-politically correct husband.”
Would Munson’s name have been called instead of the choices to come in the 1980s like Dick Howser, Gene Michael, Bob Lemon, Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Lou Piniella, Dallas Green and Bucky Dent? It’s likely. Munson was already experiencing significant injury problems by 1979, and though he could have played a few more seasons, his catching days were coming to a close.
In the 2009 biography, ‘Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankees Captain,’ author Marty Appel writes that as Steinbrenner was cycling through managers, Munson’s name would have come up unless he was already managing somewhere else – Munson did sometimes threaten that the Indians were more convenient to his Ohio home – or if he was making enough money outside baseball that he would not have wanted to deal with the travel of a season.
The book notes that Steinbrenner told Munson during Spring Training in 1979, “Learn everything you can, because you’re going to be my manager someday.”