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Diana Munson Remembers Thurman

July 29, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ For Diana Munson, the annual returns to Yankee Stadium have become more heartwarming - and melancholy - each year.

A decade after her husband, Yankee catcher and captain Thurman Munson, lost his life in a plane crash at age 32 near their Ohio home, she maintains close ties to the Yankee family and values the chance her three children get to witness their father’s continuing legacy.

″I’ve kept thinking that as the years go by, it’s going to be different - that one of these times I’ll go back and feel like an outsider,″ said Diana, now 40, during her most recent visit. ″But it has never happened. That’s what so amazing about the Stadium and the people of New York. The love for Thurman is everywhere.″

On Old Timer’s Day 1989, Mrs. Munson rose as she was introduced during pre- game ceremonies that sunny afternoon. The crowd of more than 50,000 responded with a warm ovation.

″It forces me to drift back to the past,″ she said sitting in one of the Yankee offices whose walls are adorned with photos and paintings of her late husband. ″I usually try to guard against the past but there’s such a warm feeling from the fans here that I let it happen. I need to feel this.″

The trips back to New York also include an annual charity dinner held each winter by the Association for the Help of Retarded Children in Thurman Munson’s honor.

Each year, awards are presented to local professional athletes who exemplify what Thurman Munson stood for - hard work and gritty determination.

″He made his mark here and the fans have never forgotten him for that,″ she said. ″It makes me feel close to New York.″

With the recent retirement of pitcher Ron Guidry - the last link to the Yankee championship teams of 1977 and 1978 - Diana agreed that something may be missing in future visits.

″There was a certain magic about the team then, something that hasn’t been felt here in a while,″ she said. ″When Thurman ended the ’78 series with that catch of a foul pop behind the plate, he had that little boy look on his face that said ’we did it 3/8‴

Now, their three children - Tracy 19, Kelly, 17 and Michael, 14 - can see how much their father’s efforts are remembered.

″The fans loved him and they continue to show it. It’s important for us to come back and see that,″ she said. ″The kids still can’t get over it. It’s really like coming home.″

Back home in Canton, where there is a recently dedicated minor league ballpark named Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium, the Munson family lives in the same house the Yankee captain bought in 1978.

″Canton is so much a part of my life, that I couldn’t think of leaving,″ she said. ″But there isn’t a day I don’t think about Thurman.″

Has she ever thought of getting married again?

″I don’t want to be a professional widow,″ she said. ″But it’s hard once you’ve shared the kind of love that we did to accept less. But yes, I hope someday there will be someone special. I think Thurman would want it that way.″

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