1979 Thurman Munson Locker-Room Nameplate from His Final Game

Sold For: $588

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1307

Item Year: 1979

Category: Post-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Few deaths in the baseball world were as sudden or tragic as the demise of Yankees captain Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979. On that date, Munson, who was a licensed pilot, was practicing takeoffs and landings in a private jet when his plane crashed just short of the runway in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. Although both of his passengers survived the accident, Munson did not. News of his death rocked the baseball community and his untimely demise will forever remain one of the darkest days in Yankees history. Offered here is a significant artifact commemorating his final game as a New York Yankee. This cardboard nameplate, which once hung above Thurman Munson's locker at Chicago's Comiskey Park, dates from the final game of his career on August 1, 1979, and originates directly from a team employee. The 12 x 2.75-inch cardboard placard bears both the name "Munson" and the uniform number, "15," handwritten in black marker. It is accompanied by an incredibly detailed one-page signed letter of authenticity from Mike Mallon, who was employed by the Chicago White Sox as batboy and clubhouse attendant in the visitors' clubhouse between the years 1976 through 1980. As Mallon notes in his undated letter, all of the visiting locker-room nameplates used at Comiskey Park during the late 1970s were made by hand by Mallon and his boss, Johnny McNamara Sr. ("Johnny Mac). He further states that the offered piece had been used for Munson's locker at Comiskey Park from 1976 through August 1, 1979. Mallon then relates how he came to possess this unique treasure:

After learning of his [Munson's] death I began immediately to think of my last memories of Thurman from his last game played at Comiskey Park a day earlier. I immediately recognized the historical significance of his last game that I played a part in, his last locker, his final moments in our clubhouse, etc. By this time all remnants of his last game were gone as we packed the Yankees and sent them off on their way to their next destination late on Wednesday, August 1, 1979. Everything except his last locker nameplate which I retrieved and brought it home with me. A couple years later (about 1982), I gave the nameplate to a barber friend of mine who has a memorabilia collection in his barbershop. He pinned the nameplate on the wall of his barbershop, which is why the nameplate is slightly faded and why there are two pinholes in the upper corners. Upon a recent visit to my barber friend on May 3, 1999, I reacquired the nameplate from him. After hanging 17 years in the barbershop, the black marker faded from the constant light exposure. It has been perfectly retraced in my hand to its exact original state from which Johnny Mac and I first created it and in which it hung at the top of Thurman's locker for his very last game.

Munson's final game as a Yankee was far from memorable. Starting at first base and batting third, Munson went 0-1 with a strike out and a walk before being replaced by Jim Spencer in the bottom of the third inning. The Yankees eventually won by a score of 9-1, thereby sweeping the three-game series. Unbeknownst to all at the time, however, was the fact that the legendary Yankees captain was playing in his final game. Thurman Munson was one of the finest all-around catchers of his era and another in a long line of legendary Yankees players. A former Rookie of the Year, six time All-Star selection, and League MVP, Munson helped lead the Yankees to three pennants and two World Championships during his brief career. In addition to his remarkable offensive achievements (including three consecutive seasons of batting over .300 with 100 or more RBI) Munson was also awarded three Gold Glove Awards in recognition of his defensive skills. In 1976 he received possibly his highest honor when he was named the team's first captain since Lou Gehrig. Like Gehrig, Munson led by example and was modest by nature, happy to deflect the spotlight away from himself and onto his teammates. Not surprisingly, his tragic death signaled the downfall of the team's 1970s dynasty. Today, Munson's number "15" has been retired along with those of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle, and his plaque hangs proudly alongside other Yankee immortals in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. In deference to his memory, Munson's locker remains empty in the Yankee clubhouse; a silent tribute to one of the greatest players in team history. The nameplate, crafted on thick cardboard stock, displays a single tack hole in each of the upper corners, as well as a piece of clear tape along the top border (Mallon notes in his letter that tape was often used to further secure the nameplates to the top each player's locker). It is otherwise in Excellent condition overall. Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $588

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