A uniform jersey and pants belonging to former Yankees catcher Thurman Munson have seen glorious times with appearances in the World Series. They also have been part of a yard sale and once were used as a Halloween costume by a band from western New York. Now, these two pieces of Thurman Munson memorabilia will make the transition from “trick or treat” to a huge prize for the winning bidder in Heritage Auctions’ Sports Collectibles Auction, which runs from May 11-13.
Munson’s jersey and pants are part of the Dallas-based auction house’s 2,970-piece inventory, which will include a 1973 game-worn jersey belonging to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, a 1964 game-worn jersey worn by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Hall of Famer Gary Carter’s 1982 Gold Glove Award and the 1926 PGA Championship gold medal won by Walter Hagen.
The jersey was worn by Munson during Game 4 of the 1976 World Series, according to Heritage Auctions, and is listed as Lot No. 81390..
The pants were worn by the Yankees’ captain during Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. It is Lot No. 81391 in the Heritage catalog. According to the Heritage catalog, the pants exhibit “tremendous game wear” from the game that enabled the Yankees to win their first World Series title — and 21st overall — since 1962.
There will be a 20 percent buyer’s premium for all winning bids.
According to Heritage director of auctions Chris Ivy, the person who is consigning the jersey and pants bought them “in the late 1970s, most likely 1979,” at “a tri-state yard sale” in Kingston, New York, for $5. He bought them along with other Yankees jerseys, Ivy said. The consignor was part of a band from Rochester, New York, called Old Salt, which played country and bluegrass music during the late 1970s and ’80s. One year, Ivy said, the band members decided to dress up as baseball players for Halloween, and the consignor decided to wear the Munson jersey and pants.
Ivy did not identify which band member owned the Munson jersey and pants, and Old Salt has had several lineup changes through the years — they are still fondly remembered by western New Yorkers — so it might be difficult to pinpoint which member bought the memorabilia.
Now, the uniform pieces have made the transition from a five-buck purchase at a yard sale to (at least) a five-figure sale.
Munson’s career was tragically cut short on Aug. 2, 1979, when he died during an accident on his airplane while practicing landing approaches near his hometown of Canton, Ohio. His web site contains a quote that probably summed up the attitude and character of the Yankees’ catcher:
“I’m a little too belligerent. I cuss and swear at people,” he said. “I yell at umpires and maybe I’m a little too tough at home sometimes. I don’t sign as many autographs as I should and I haven’t always been very good with writers.”
Reggie Jackson may have claimed to be the straw that stirred the drink for the Yankees, but Munson was the engine that drove the team. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1970 and had a .292 career batting average with 113 homers and 701 RBI. He was a seven-time All-Star selection.
The Yankees batted only .222 during the 1976 World Series, suffering a four-game sweep to the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati, but Munson had an outstanding .529 average, going 9-for-17 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Game 4 was played at Yankee Stadium in front of 56,700 fans. The Reds completed their sweep with a 7-2 victory. The Reds used a four-run ninth inning to break open a close game an
d won their first World Series title since 1940. Munson went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. It capped a season in which Munson won the 1976 American League Most Valuable Player award, hitting .302 with 17 homers and 105 RBI. He played in 152 games that season, including 121 at catcher as he led New York to its first A.L. pennant since 1964.
While Munson had a lower batting average in the 1977 World Series — he hit .320, going 8-for-25 — his power numbers were higher against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had two doubles, a home run and three RBIs while scoring four runs. While Game 6 of the 1977 Fall Classic is remembered for Reggie Jackson’s three home runs, Munson went 1-for-4 and scored a run in New York’s 8-4, Series-clinching victory. Munson singled to open the fourth inning and scored when Jackson ripped his first homer of the game, a line shot to right field off Burt Hooton. That gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead.