02/19/07 10:00 AM ET
Vets Committee to consider Munson
Yankees catcher was team leader until tragic death
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
August Busch Jr.
Munson was built like a fire hydrant and had a cantankerous personality. On a team chocked with egos from hired-and-then-fired-again manager Billy Martin to utilityman Cliff Johnson, Munson was always in the middle of the fray.Those Yankees had Gold Glove third baseman Graig Nettles, second baseman Willie Randolph and Mickey Rivers in center. When principal owner George Steinbrenner added free agent Reggie Jackson to the mix in time for the 1977 season, the turbulent clubhouse atmosphere was complete. Before Jackson's arrival, Munson was the undisputed locker room leader. Afterward, he had to share the spotlight with the left-handed hitter who called himself "the straw that stirs the drink" and signed a contract with a candy company that produced the short-lived chocolate "Reggie Bar." Never one to leave the pot unstirred, Nettles quipped: "Reggie has a candy bar named after him. When you split it open, it tells you how good it is." Munson, a lunchpail player, never felt comfortable under the glare that Jackson brought with him, much like the circumstance in the clubhouse between the glamorous Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the everyman, today. But there's no doubt who remains the team favorite from that era. Jackson and Fisk, Munson's chief rivals, are in the Hall of Fame. To this day, Munson's locker remains empty and unused in the Yankee clubhouse as a tribute to the man who perished too young, but who gave it everything he had every day without complaint. On his Monument Park plaque are the words once penned by Steinbrenner himself: "Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next ... Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him." "It's incredible that it's been that long ago," Nettles said about the time that has passed since Munson's death. "That's almost half my life."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.