Should Thurman Munson be in the Hall of Fame? Collectors Must Think So!

Thurman Munson played 11 seasons as the catcher for the New York Yankees from 1969 to 1979. His career was tragically cut short during the 1979 season when he died in a private plane crash. Munson’s baseball cards are and have been extremely popular with sports card collectors for 40-plus years. His cardboard sales can command very high prices on his higher graded cards. In fact, some of his cards have sold for so much that most collectors just assume he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Munson is not in the Hall of Fame.

After seeing some record baseball card sale prices in 2021 (above $100,000.00), it is again time to ask… Should Thurmon Munson be in the Hall of Fame? It is obvious that many fans and collectors believe he should be. Munson would not be alone as a Cooperstown oversight.

One issue that has to be considered is that Munson’s catcher status for the New York Yankees made him among the most followed catchers of the 1970s. During his career, the Yankees went to the World series in 1976 and they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds (against the best catcher of all time Johnny Bench). The Yankees came roaring back with back-to-back World Series wins in 1977 and 1978 over the L.A. Dodgers. These wins had Munson’s career aligned for greatness. His premature death remains a wedge in deciding whether his career would have been an obvious induction into the HOF or a serious error about why he has not been inducted.

Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. The same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds is being used to buy high-end collectibles. And with true sports collectors and hobbyists who want to own the great cards competing against investors and dealers looking to make a profit, cards commanding five-figures easily fit within the alternative asset class theme.

We looked at some career stats for Munson, and some other baseball greats who had direct overlaps in his career or who look similar on paper. And we also looked at some of the sky-high prices that the highest Thurman Munson card sales have commanded.


The Baseball Reference site is a trove of great statistical information on players. From his 26 games in 1969 through his 97 games before his life was cut short in 1979, his first full season of 1970 with 132 games resulted in Munson being named as AL Rookie of the Year. He was also the AL MVP in 1976, and Munson was on the AL All-Star team 7 of those years.

As for his base statistics, Munson’s career batting average was .292, he had a .410 slugging percentage, 1,558 career hits, 113 home runs and 701 RBIs. His number of walks (BB) of 438 was against 571 strikeouts.

Munson’s post-season career was strong as well. From 1976 to 1978, Munson tallied up 46 post-season hits, 3 homers, and 22 RBI. His walks of 5 were against 19 strikeouts, but his post season batting average of .357 also came with a .496 slugging percentage.


As a site dedicated to collectibles, we had to get around to those pieces of cardboard representing Thurmon Munson. Topps was the only major issuer for U.S. collectors during Munson’s career. There are other issues that are parallels like O-Pee-hee, and there are issues from Milk Duds, Hostess and Kellogg. And there are some disc cards, but the most recognized cards are those various Topps cards from the 1970s.

Munson’s true rookie card for collectors is the grey bordered 1970s Topps #189. This has a rather high population of 5,105 graded examples by PSA alone. These grey borders make high grades much more difficult to find. Without the plus grades and qualifiers, Munson only has 4 PSA 10 gem-mint grades and 86 graded at 9. Of the 720-card set, the only other card in the 1970 set that even comes close in the PSA graded population is Nolan Ryan’s 5,098 examples (with just 3 PSA 10 and 125 PSA 9 grades). Image below by Heritage Auctions.

Thurman Munson rookie card

The sales of Munson’s rookie cards are rather affordable in the mid-grades to upper grades where the populations are so large. The most recent 2021 eBay sales in mid-grades were as follows:

  • $99.99 for a PSA 5
  • $138.50 for a PSA 6
  • $280.00 for a PSA 7
  • $611.00 for a PSA 8
  • $815.00 for a PSA 8.5

Those high-end grades come with much higher price tags. PSA 9 auction prices on eBay have commanded final bid prices from $1,476.32 to $2,905.00 in 2021. A PSA 10 gem-mint graded example sold for $99,000 in February 2021 via Heritage Auctions (and the same PSA serial certification number had sold for $13,045.00 via SCP Auctions in May of 2012). Another PSA 10 gem-mint grade had sold for $33,206.08 in January of 2020 via Mile High Card Company and a prior PWCC sale of a PSA 10 went off at $26,101.00 in September 2018.

The so-called “second rookie” is from the prized 1971 Topps set. Vintage card collectors know that this set is among the toughest set to keep in superb condition due to the black borders and green backs. Card #5 is of Thurman Munson and it is both more scarce in total graded examples and in high grades sought by investor-collectors. The PSA total graded population is 3,450 in all grades. PSA shows a “0” in the perfect PSA 10 as a result of those black borders. There are only 4 PSA 9 examples before counting 6 more with qualifiers, and only 125 graded PSA 8 (before 5 with the “+” and 45 more with qualifiers). Image below by Heritage Auctions.

1971 Topps Thurman Munson

One consideration here is that there is a huge population of ungraded cards because those black borders show so many flaws in the cards. The 1971 Topps sales are still affordable in the mid-grades to upper grades, with most recent sales by grade as follows:

  • $115.00 for a PSA 5
  • $341.77 for a PSA 6
  • $698.88 for a PSA 7

While the 1970 true rookie cost of $611.00 was cited above for a PSA 8 grade, the most recent PSA sale on eBay was $3,751.00 for a PSA 8. And even higher up the scale commands even more of a premium. A PSA 8.5 sale in August 2021 went for $13,530 through Goldin Auctions after the same PSA certification serial number sold for $4,200.25 through PWCC in August of 2018 after commanding $7,100.00 in December of 2016.

The 1970 Topps does reign in Munson sales at the PSA 9 grades. The same PSA certification number (06376739) sold through Heritage Auctions twice in 2021: most recently for $150,000.00 on July 26, 2021 and previously for $162,000.00 on February 27, 2021. That same certification number sold for $7,086.00 back on August 21, 2011 via Memory Lane, Inc.

There is also a less than common 1971 Topps Greatest Moments card. Munson is card #1 of that 55-card set. PSA only has 109 graded examples of that card, with no PSA 10 and only 1 PSA 9.

Let’s put it this way. Other than Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, you just do not see vintage baseball card players commanding nearly $100,000 or much higher prices if they are not in the Hall of Fame.


Did you know there is even a website dedicated to getting Thurmon Munson into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? The website has a petition to get Munson up for a Hall of Fame vote.

MunsonHOF even identifies his stronger cases using more modern day advanced metrics than his traditional stats. The site notes that he has 10 consecutive seasons of WAR at 45.6 WAR. He is listed as being 1 of just 10 catchers in baseball history who caught 1,000+ games and produce a 40+ WAR in 10 consecutive seasons 00 and only 6 catchers higher are higher, all are listed as being in the Hall of fame, and that he is 14th all-time in WAR for catchers. The further noted that Munson had the 3rd best WAR per 162 games with 5.25 WAR using a minimum of 1,000 games caught. Others were as follows:

  • Cochrane HOF. 5.69,
  • Bench HOF. 5.65
  • Munson. 5.25,
  • Dickey HOF. 5.05,
  • Piazza HOF. 5.05,
  • Carter HOF. 4.95,
  • Campanella HOF. 4.55,
  • Berra HOF. 4.54.
  • Fisk HOF. 4.44,
  • Rodriguez HOF. 4.38,
  • and Hartnett HOF. 4.35.

MunsonHOF even quoted Peter Golenbock as saying:

“Thurman Munson was the glue that held the Yankees pitching staff together during those championship years. He was a fierce competitor who was beloved by everyone on those teams. His greatness cannot be measured by batting average and home runs alone. Without him, the Yankees do not win those pennants and championships. Thurman– and Billy Martin– should join Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson on the wall of the baseball Hall of Fame.”


Thurman Munson was 32 years old when he died on an off-day in the 1979 season (August 2). He was doing a practice landing at the Akron-Canton airport in his Cessna Citation and suffered a broken neck in that crash. The other two men in the plane survived and were unable to get Munson out of the burning plane.

The New York Yankees immediately retired jersey number 15 in Munson’s honor and a plaque in Munson’s memory was placed in Monument Park. Munson had been the team leader. It’s not easy to compare players who died during a baseball season to other players who died in the off-season or who are in the Hall of Fame by other metrics. That said, we are comparing Munson to several players here.

The first comparison is Roberto Clemente’s death, which was in a plane crash on a humanitarian mission. Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973. He was only the second player to have the mandatory 5-year waiting period waived for HOF election after the Baseball Writers’ Association of America proclaimed Clemente a Hall of Famer after holding a special election just months after his death.

Clemente was one of the greatest players of all-time. In his 18 years he commanded 3,000 hits and ended with a .317 batting average. He was one of the greatest players and was more than popular with Pirates fans. His cards also sell for a major premium against most HOF players from the 1950s and 1960s.

Roy Campanella would seem like a fair comparison for Hall of Fame admission on the surface. His 10-year MLB career was with the Dodgers, but Campanella played in the Negro Leagues from 1937 to 1945. He was already 26 years old when joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. Campanella’s 18-year stats were a .283 batting average, with a .363 on-base percentage and .498 slugging. For the 10-years on the Dodgers, those were .276, .360 and .500 respectively. Campanella won MVP 3 times as a Dodger and was on the All-Star team every year from 1949 to 1956.

Campanella’s career came to a tragic end between the 1957 and 1958 season, as the Dodgers were moving to Los Angeles, after losing control of a rented car on ice in Glen Cove, NY. He broke his back on the fifth vertebra and he lost almost complete use of his body below the shoulders. His 10-year career with the Dodgers saw 242 home runs, 856 RBI and 5 post-season appearances. He was not elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame until 1969 and he died in 1993.

Ted Simmons was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the 2020 class. He moved up from minors and joined the St, Louis Cardinals in 1970, and he ended his career as a part-timer with the Atlanta Braves in 1988. The HOF site noted that Simmons was a player that hit for power and average. The site noted his 193 hits in 1975 were the most of any catcher who caught at least 150 games in a year, and also that his 192 hits in 1973 ranks second on that same list. He was on 6 All-Star teams in the 1970s and from 1971 to 1983 he averaged 17 home runs and 90 RBI per season (with a .294 batting average).

Here is the rest of the HOF summary for Ted Simmons: .285 batting average, with 2,472 hits, 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI. His 182 home runs in the National League are said to have ranked first on the all-time switch-hitters in the NL at the time of his retirement. And of those who played at least 50% of their games at catcher, Simmons was said to rank second in hits, second in doubles, second in RBI and fifth in total runs.

Buster Posey only announced his retirement from the majors on November 4, 2021 after having played as catcher and first baseman. Many fans and collectors have already started speculating that he will become a member of the Hall of Fame, but that is at least five years away. Posey opted out of baseball in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and at 34 he had a .304 batting average in 2021 to break back above .300 for the first year since 2017. Posey’s All-Star status in 2021 was his 7th All-Star appearance. He won Rookie of the Year in 2010 and was the NL MVP in 2012. He has 3 World Series rings from the San Francisco Giants.

After 12 years, Posey’s career included 1,500 hits, 158 homers, 729 RBI, .460 slugging and .372 on-base. His career WAR was 44.9. We would speculate that at 34 Posey is too young to hang up his hat for good. Then again, his retirement about spending time with his family also noted the physical pain after a decade of major league play.


The Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2020 Modern Baseball Era Ballot explained the review from 2019 at the Baseball Winter Meetings that December. Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker were the candidates the Modern Baseball Era Committee that were considered for Hall of Fame election for the Class of 2020. Munson did not make it.

The Hall of Fame’s own notes about Munson also include that on top of being a 7-time All-Star player he was a 3-time Gold Glove Award winner. Munson was also noted as just 1 of 2 catchers in history with 3 consecutive seasons with a .300 average, 180 hits and 100 RBI.

The Sign the Petition from 2019 included 18,139 signatures. Thurman Munson was inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, but his place in Cooperstown has not been secured.


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