Appel co-wrote New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson's autobiography 30 years ago, and his stated goal here is to tell the story that didn't get told then. The revelations, however, are few. We learn, for example, that Munson grew up in Canton, Ohio, with a father whose coldness and resentment bordered on emotional abuse. (On the day Munson signed with the Yankees, his father openly criticized his playing skills to team executives; years later, he came to his son's funeral and taunted the closed casket.) There's also, naturally, much more information about the 1979 plane crash that ended Munson's life, including the transcript of a lengthy interview with one of the survivors; again, however, the conclusion that Munson was a relatively inexperienced pilot who made fatal errors in judgment is not a new one. Otherwise, Appel covers familiar territory, casting Munson as a journeyman ballplayer who inspired his teammates with his tenacious work ethic, but didn't get along with the press and couldn't stand Reggie Jackson or George Steinbrenner. Excerpts from several other baseball memoirs and transcripts from archival interviews with Munson extend the story, but do little to expand upon it. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A former PR director for the New York Yankees celebrates the life of catcher Thurman Munson (1947-1979), who died in a plane crash at the age of 32. Appel, who has authored and ghostwritten biographies of other baseball notables-including Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver and Munson (in his 1978 autobiography)-does not restrain his admiration for his subject. From the praise of Munson's "Ohio grit and guts" to a later characterization of him as "the heart and soul of a world championship team" to the 70 maudlin pages that deal with the aftermath of the accident, the book is more tribute than biography. Appel charts the quick rise of Munson, a gifted athlete from Canton, Ohio, who played very little in the minor leagues before his promotion to the Yankees. We learn about his marriage-several times the author assures us that Diana Munson was the prettiest girl in town-his children, his giant mansion, his erratic and bitter father and, of course, his airplanes and fearlessness of flying. There are the obligatory accounts of heroic moments, rivalries with Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, many awards (1970 AL Rookie of the Year, three Gold Gloves, 1976 AL MVP) and interminable testimonials from former teammates, rivals and managers. Appel does not shy from comparing Munson with fallen former Presidents McKinley (also from Canton) and JFK, and he glosses over the darker moments in his subject's life, including a night in the Yankee parking lot when he fired his handgun at persons he thought had vandalized a teammate's car. Some crass final pages include auction prices for Munson memorabilia. Exceedingly rosy-hued.
“Seldom does a biographer get a do-over. Appel, who collaborated with legendary New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson on a standard “then-we-played” sports bio in 1977, decided to revisit the subject nearly 30 years after Munson’s death in a plane crash in 1979. It was worth the effort. Appel, the Yanks public-relations director and Munson’s friend during the catcher’s years with the team, digs a lot deeper this time. The product of a harsh blue-collar upbringing in Ohio, Munson was not a simple man. He was capable of great loyalty, perpetual enmity, profound kindness, and arrogant egotism toward the press and sometimes–not always–the fans. His father resented his son’s success, and the two were estranged most of Thurman’s adult life. This time around Appel researches the life of a man, not a sports hero, and emerges with a textured portrait of a flawed but likable individual, often angry and bitter, occasionally an ass, but ultimately worthy of our respect, on and off the field. The best biographies recount the public life, reveal the private life, and give readers a sense of the critical intersection between the two. Appel manages all three and deserves high praise for keeping one of baseball’s most intriguing players in the forefront.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Marty Appel’s examination of Thurman Munson’s traumatic life and controversial death is fascinating. The detail is amazing, and there’s an anthology’s worth of illuminating quotes. The glimpses of George Steinbrenner behind the scenes are priceless. As a longtime New York Yankee “insider,” Appel knew Munson intimately, knew his family, knew his teammates and knew–knows–almost everyone of importance in Munson’s often difficult life. An extraordinary book.”
Robert Creamer, bestselling author of Babe: The Legend Comes to Life
"Only Marty Appel could do justice to this fallen leader; a man who, a generation after his death, continues to inspire all who learn about him. Bravo, Marty, for every page!"
Suzyn Waldman, NY Yankees Radio Broadcaster
“If the measure of a great biography is the amount of new, previously un-mined material on the subject, then Marty Appel has hit a grand slam home run with this definitive portrait of Thurman Munson. Thirty years after Thurman's tragic death, we finally get the whole story of a very complex and private man. You don't even have to be a Yankee fan to find this a compelling read.”
Bill Madden, New York Daily News
“Thirty years after teaming with Munson on the Yankee catcher's autobiography, Appel comes back to finish the ultimately sad tale. No one else could have written this book. No one else could have written it better. Great stuff.”
Leigh Montville, New York Times bestselling author of The Big Bam and Ted Williams
"Told through the voice of a friend and colleague for whom the death of the Yankee captain was a personal and a professional loss, Marty Appel's incisive and insightful biography of Thurman Munson is not just another sports book. It is a gift to baseball!"
Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
"Thurman Munson was the heart and soul of a team that transitioned from also-ran to champion. Marty Appel lived those years with the captain from the inside and now gives us a rare and intimate look at this remarkable, legendary Yankee. This is a must read for any baseball fan."
Michael Kay, YES Network, ESPN Radio
“Appel, former Yankee PR director and coauthor of Thurman Munson’s 1978 autobiography, offers a comprehensive study of the enigmatic Yankee catcher. Appel details Munson’s rough relationship with his father, his tumultuous years with the Yankees, the fatal crash, and the ensuing funeral….Highly recommended for Yankees and Munson fans.”
"Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain" …is spectacular. If you can get through this book without getting choked up, then you possess impressive resolve.…[W]ith Appel as a first-hand witness, you get great inside information on the '70s Yankees. And incredible details on the days immediately following Munson's plane crash. Sorry to be so over the top. It's just fantastic.
Ken Davidoff’s Baseball Insider on Newsday.com