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The New York Yankee I’d Bring Back? Thurman Munson is the Easy Choice

All-Star Catcher May Not Be a Hall of Famer, but He’d Be Perfect Fit on Today’s Club

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The New York Yankee I’d Bring Back? Thurman Munson is the Easy Choice
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Thurman Munson is honored with a plaque in Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Munson …

COMMENTARY | The answer to the hypothetical question came remarkably quickly. "Name the one player from New York Yankees' history you would choose to bring back in his prime."

Considering this is a team that boasts such legends of the game as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, one might think this would be a difficult question.

No, it was remarkably simple.

If there was just one Yankee I could magically bring back in his prime and plunk on the roster of the 2013 club, it would be Thurman Munson.

Munson was a great player, the captain of the team from April 1976 until his tragic death in an airplane crash on Aug. 2, 1979, according to baseball-almanac.com. Munson was a seven-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and was named the American League's Rookie of the Year in 1970 and Most Valuable Player in 1976.

He backstopped the Yankees to two World Series championships in 1977 and 1978 as well as the American League pennant in 1976.

Munson was also lost far too soon. He was just 32 when he died, in his 10th full big league season. He was a career .292/.346/.410 hitter with 113 homers and 701 RBIs in 5,905 plate appearances. He wasn't a power hitter, per se; his career high was just 20 bombs in 1973. But the guy could drive in some runs.

Munson had three consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBIs (1975-77) and was a fixture in the middle of the Yankee order for most of the 1970s.

Munson in his prime would obviously be a huge upgrade over the current catching tandem of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

But more than that, Munson would bring a swagger and a toughness that the current bunch of pinstripers sometimes seems to be lacking.

He had a great appreciation for the job he did behind the plate.

"I like hitting fourth and I like the good batting average," Munson said, according to the official Thurman Munson website. "But what I do every day behind the plate is a lot more important because it touches so many more people and so many more aspects of the game."

There was a campaign to get Munson elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., but he never gained more than 15.5 percent of the vote during the 15 years he was on the ballot (1981-95).

Munson was my favorite player growing up-I had just become a teenager a little more than a month before Munson's death while he was at the controls of his private plane and fell short of the runway while practicing landings at the Akron Canton Regional Airport in Ohio.

Munson was the first Yankee to be named captain since Lou Gehrig. His locker has never been assigned to another player and when the Yankees moved to their new stadium after the 2008 season, the locker made the trip into the new clubhouse.

His combination of cockiness and toughness would be a huge addition to any team, past or present. After all, it was Munson who set the tone for a pair of World Series winners while he was in his far-too-short prime.

Phil Watson is a freelance journalist and commentator based in upper Michigan who covers the New York Yankees for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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