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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/14/2016

     Thurman Munson epitomized toughness on the baseball field, playing the game at 100% effort at all times and challenging teammates who did not provide the same commitment as he presented or desired. His certain Hall of Fame career was cut short on August 2, 1979, when his Cessna personal aircraft, which he was piloting, crashed near a landing runway near the Akron-Canton Regional Airport and Munson died. He was the key to the New York Yankees consecutive World Series championships in 1977 and 1978, which was several years removed from when former shortstop Gene Michael last donned the pinstripes.

     Munson and Michael were similar in many ways, yet different in others. Munson was nicknamed Squatty due to his body type and position on the field, while Michael was known as “Stick” due to his very thin frame and his position of shortstop. However, both were in the Yankee organization at the beginning of their careers, and both also played their college baseball at Kent State University. In fact, from 1990-2003 the Golden Flashes home field was known as “Gene Michael Stadium”. The Munson-Michael relationship was a close friendship, and when his friend passed away in that plane crash, Michael attended the emotional events which followed over the next couple days.

     At the time, Stick was the Yankees AAA manager for the Columbus Clippers. Sometime in the following few days after the crash, Michael found himself in the Yankee locker room, reminiscing about his friend, when long-time clubhouse man Pete Sheehy presented Michael with this game used Thurman Munson catcher’s mask. Sheehy is the most celebrated baseball clubhouse man of all time, beginning his career helping Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with their uniforms and equipment and was still working when Munson and Michael wore the pinstripes. Sheehy knew of their close relationship (the clubhouse guy knows all!) and wanted Stick to have an item of his friend to further remember him. This offered item is the exact same mask presented to Gene Michael in August 1979 by Pete Sheehy.

     The mask is typical Munson style with a short and wide metal facemask, solely held to the head by a simple cloth strap. Thurman Munson wore his catchers mask’s with his backwards facing Yankee cap underneath. No helmet for Thurman! Not his style. Munson was “old school”. We believe if Munson played today, he would eschew the colorful “goalie style” mask often worn by the current crop of catchers and stick with the traditional type. The mask is in tremendous condition with a few areas of chipping of painted heavily wired cage, the cloth straps still soft and flexible with the three metal buckles exhibiting their original shine. The leather padding remains relatively supple with several areas of scraping, and one tiny area of cracking within one of the creases. This mask is exactly the way it was in 1979 when Munson wore it during his final season in baseball.

     You can still picture a runner attempting to steal, with Munson side arming the ball to second base, mask moving sideways covering Munson’s mustachioed face. This is also the same mask which was on loan to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY from the years 2000-2013. Accompanying this mask is a letter, dated January 22, 2013 from Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson on Hall of Fame letterhead, a Receipt of Return acknowledging “that the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has returned the objects listed in good condition”….and below listing a “Game used catcher’s mask from Thurman Munson’s career”. In addition, a Full LOA from Gene Michael, signed and dated 5/2/16, indicating “longtime clubhouse man Pete Sheehy gave me his (Munson’s) game used catcher’s mask”. To complete the chain of provenance, a March 15, 1993 letter to Gene Michael (then Yankees General Manager) from then clubhouse manager Nick Priore, on New York Yankees letterhead, “bear witness that the late New York Yankee, Thurman Munson, did use this glove and mask during the 1979 season, which in turn was given to you by Pete Sheehy…” This mask was worn by Yankee great Thurman Munson in the final year of his career, and was eventually presented to his long time close friend Gene Michael after Munson’s tragic death.

     Besides the two players involved, The National Baseball Hall of Fame has been the only other “owner” of this mask. It is extremely rare for any game used material from this two-time World Champion to enter the collectibles hobby, and still rarer are examples with such ironclad documentation. Original letters of provenance from Nick Priore and Gene Michael accompany this item along with original documentation/paperwork from the Baseball Hall of Fame signed by President Jeff Idelson,as well as a LOA from JT Sports.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $15,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $26,950.00
Estimate: $40,000+
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Sunday, August 14, 2016.
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