Tag Archives: Thurman Munson

George Steinbrenner May Be Dead, But His Yankee “Hair Policy” Remains In Effect

George Steinbrenner’s “No Long Hair Or Beard Rule” Is Still Followed

Thurman Munson’s 1976 Topps baseball card shows something you won’t see on any Yankee today, a defiant beard.

At Yankee Stadium’s home opening game on April 11, 1973, the new owner and managing general partner, George M. Steinbrenner III was on hand to see his team. As he watched his players line up along the foul lines and remove their caps for the national anthem,  Steinbrenner pulled out an envelope from his suit pocket. He began writing down a series of numbers on the back of the envelope.

After the game the envelope was given to manager Ralph Houk.

“What is this?” Houk wanted to know.

Sparky Lyle 1974 Topps Baseball card showing his “long” hair

Players who need a haircut was the reply.

Still not knowing any of his players names, Steinbrenner had listed the players numbers who had hair that was not to his liking.

Among the stars on the list were Bobby Murcer,  Fritz Peterson, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle and Roy White.

Houk posted the list in the locker room and reluctantly informed his hippie players to go to a barber.

Steinbrenner had been perturbed about the long hair since first seeing the Yankees in spring training. Now it was time to do something about it.

This incident marked the beginning of George Steinbrenner’s 37 year odyssey of interference and unpredictability as owner of the Yankees.

To Steinbrenner, short hair and being clean shaven represented order and discipline. No one mentioned to Steinbrenner that baseball was not the military.

Mike Burke, part owner and president of the Yankees, had very long hair himself. Burke was not very concerned about Steinbrenner’s meddling and downplayed the hair cutting incident.

NEW YORK – JANUARY 3, 1973 Yankees President Michael Burke & George Steinbrenner at press conference at Yankee Stadium where the announcement is made that an ownership group led by Steinbrenner are the new owners of the Yankees. (Photo by: Olen Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Burke, who had been Yankee president since 1966, was instrumental in putting the deal together for Steinbrener and his 13 limited partners, to buy the Yankees from CBS. Burke was led to believe he would be considered a co-partner on an equal level with Steinbrenner.

When Steinbrenner spoke to the press on January 3, 1973 , he said he would be an absentee owner and Burke would run the team. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Burke should have more concerned about Steinbrenner’s controlling behavior and desire to be solely in charge.  Soon after the haircut incident, Steinbrenner started firing off memos left and right asserting his control of the team. Less than 3 weeks after opening day, Burke resigned. The truth was Burke had been forced out as president of the Yankees and later gave up his ownership stake.

Yankee Third baseman Graig Nettles asked with a straight face, “Was his hair too long?” Continue reading

Thurman Munson And Billy Martin Argue A Call

Thurman Munson Is Out And Billy Martin Does Not Agree

Thurman Munson Billy Martin argue call July 21 1978

There was no instant replay back when this scene occurred on July 21, 1978 as Billy Martin pleads his case in vain to umpire Durwood Merrill. Believe it or not, they are arguing that Munson should have been called safe when he attempted to steal home.

The Yankees were playing the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium, a place very familiar to Yankees manager Billy Martin and the theft of home. When Martin managed the Twins in 1969 he taught Rod Carew how to swipe home and Carew ended up with a record seven steals of home.

It was not a big deal that Munson was called out in this instance, as the Yankees won the game 4-0.

Scorecard! Who Needs A Scorecard?

The Death Of The Scorecard At The Ballgame

Scorecard vendor at the Polo Grounds 1949 - photo William C. Greene

Scorecard vendor at the Polo Grounds 1949 – photo William C. Greene

Recently I went to a baseball game at that imitation ballpark in the Bronx they call Yankee Stadium. After being gently frisked at the admission gates and going through the turnstiles, the thing that did not greet me was what you see above: a vendor selling scorecards.

You could buy a scorecard, but not for 10 cents as it was at the Polo Grounds in 1949. The archaic idea of a scorecard costs $10 at Yankee Stadium and is available at the souvenir shops spread throughout Yankee Mall Stadium. The scorecard is buried in some glossy souvenir publication which I did not purchase, nor did anyone else.

When I used to attend a lot of games in the 1970’s and 80’s buying a scorecard was a no-brainer. From anywhere from a reasonable 25 cents in the early 1970’s to two dollars in the late 80’s, filling out that scorecard and having a program was a nice memento of a game I went to. There is a certain enjoyment derived from scorekeeping and having a permanent record of a game you are attending.

I just dug this program of my closet from a game I went to on Thursday evening September 6, 1973. The Yankees came back in the bottom of the eighth inning after trailing 6-5 on a three run home run from Mike Hegan to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6. Bobby Murcer and Roy White also homered for the Yanks. The time of the game was 2:22.

In my childish way I merely recorded outs as fly outs, ground outs or line outs without denoting the fielders who made the play. As you can see my scorekeeping leaves a lot to be desired, but for a little kid I think I did a pretty good job. Eventually I learned to score correctly.

For 30 cents they packed a lot into 28 pages. Continue reading

Marty Springstead Demonstrates How To Eject A Manager

Marty Springstead, Former American League Umpire, Dies At 74 (January 17, 2012)

Major league baseball umpires are beloved by their families and friends, but are generally not appreciated by the fans. When longtime umpire Marty Springstead died after suffering a heart attack on January 17th in Sarasota Florida, I felt sad that one of the more memorable baseball names that I heard throughout my childhood was gone. As a fan, I appreciated Marty Springstead’s umpiring skills  and not just because he would consistently eject Orioles manager and longtime Yankee nemesis Earl Weaver from ballgames during the 1970’s and 1980’s, but because he was from the old school of umpiring and was not flamboyant.

Springstead umpired in the American League from 1966-1985. He went on to become an executive and supervisor of umpires from 1986-2009. He worked in three All-Star Games and three World Series. He also got to be behind the plate for two no-hitters, but missed the chance for a third. He would have been calling balls and strikes on June 1, 1975 when Nolan Ryan pitched his fourth no-hitter, but he took off to be with his wife who was having a baby.  People who knew Springstead said Marty was funny and a great storyteller.

But managers who got under his skin would not see that side of him while he was on the field. Springstead was a very good umpire who took his job seriously and didn’t take flak from players, coaches or managers.  Twice during his career Springstead led the league in manager ejections.

I was among the 10,670 long suffering Yankee fans who attended the ballgame shown in the photo below.

At Yankee Stadium on Saturday, August 26, 1972, the Kansas City Royals had already scored two unearned runs in the third inning, and were leading two to one. There were two outs and Yankees pitcher Rob Gardner had a 1-2 count on Kansas City Royals slugger John Mayberry with two men on base. It looked like Gardner would get out of the inning. Continue reading