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This Day in Yankees History: The Yanks tragically lose their captain

On this day in 1979, Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in Ohio

New York Yankees

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. Even with the start of the 2020 season, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (August 2)

41 years ago

In what may be the darkest day in franchise history, Yankees captain Thurman Munson died when the single-engine Cessna I/SP jet he was flying clipped a tree and crashed 1,000 feet short of the runway at Akron-Canton Regional Airport in Ohio. Munson, 32, had been learning to fly so he could get home easily on off-days to spend time with his wife Diana and their three kids.

Munson’s career had numerous highlights: he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1970, providing Yankees fans a glimmer of hope after an atypically fallow period in the late 1960s. His blue-collar ethos and on-field performance quickly made him a fan favorite and he was named team captain – the first Yankee to receive the honor since Lou Gehrig – heading into the 1976 season. That year, he won the AL MVP Award and the Yankees reached the World Series for the first time since 1964. Back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and 1978 followed, but tragedy wasn’t far behind.

The day after Munson’s 1979 death, the Yankees retired his number 15. The following year, a plaque in his honor was unveiled in Monument Park, with the inscription: “Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next ... Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”

The actual locker that he used was sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The locker space in Yankee Stadium was never assigned and remained empty, adorned only with Munson’s number 15, until 2008, when the team prepared to move into their new home across the street. Fans can now view that locker in the current stadium’s museum.

35 years ago

Yankee Stadium saw one of the game’s odder moments when White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tagged out two runners at home on the same play. With runners on first and second and the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Rickey Henderson hit a deep drive to left-center that was just out of the reach of center fielder Luis Salazar. The runner at second, Bobby Meacham, had been tagging at the base, while the runner at first, Larry Berra, had advanced more than halfway. When the ball fell in safely, the two runners were virtually on top of each other, both trying to score. Unfortunately for them, the White Sox executed a perfect relay from the outfield and nabbed them both.

11 years ago

Melky Cabrera becomes the 14th Yankee to hit for the cycle – and the first in 14 years – when he smacks a home run, double, single and triple against the Chicago White Sox in the Windy City. Tony Fernandez had been the last Bomber to accomplish that feat, in 1995. The Yankees haven’t had a player hit for the cycle since the Melk Man.

9 years ago

Mark Teixeira went deep from both sides of the plate against the White Sox in Chicago, setting a major-league record with 12 such switch-hitting power displays. The first baseman moved ahead of Eddie Murray and Chili Davis, who had each accomplished the feat 11 times in their respective careers.

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We have to dig deep for Yankee birthdays. Charlie Caldwell, who pitched all of 2.2 innings for the Yankees in 1925 (the only innings of his career), was born on this date in 1901; and Ángel Aragón, who played 32 games for the club spread out over 1914, 1916 and 1917, was born on this date in 1890.

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We thank Baseball-Reference,, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.