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Friday, July 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Major League Baseball
By Allan Kreda
Thurman Munson's widow is selling some of the former New York Yankees catcher's personal items, including his pilot's license, in an auction that may bring in as much as $500,000.
The Yankees catcher and captain died at age 32 when his small jet crashed as he practiced takeoffs and landings near his Canton, Ohio, home in August 1979. His wife, Diana, hasn't sold any of the former American League Most Valuable Player's baseball memorabilia.
"It's time to let go after 25 years," Diana Munson said.
Munson, who played for the Yankees from when he first made the major leagues in 1969 to his death, was a fan favorite of Yankees fans in the 1970s. He won the 1970 Rookie of the Year Award, then was the AL MVP in 1976. His No. 15 was retired immediately after his death, and the team put a plaque in his honor at Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
Among the 40 items for sale will be a pilot's license of Munson's that expired two days before his death. Munson's valid license was destroyed in the crash of his twin-engine Cessna.
Also available will be the last catcher's mitt he used in a game and a bat used by teammate Bobby Murcer to win a nationally televised game against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium the night of Munson's funeral in Ohio.
Bidding on the items will begin on the Internet, with the closing price becoming the opening price at a live auction that will be held Sept. 9-10 at a hotel near New York's Kennedy Airport, said Russell Friedman, an attorney and partner of Ed Kranepool, former New York Mets first baseman, in Memorabilia Road Show Inc., which is handling the sale.
Friedman estimated the items will fetch as much as $500,000 at auction.
A grandmother of five, Diana Munson said she wants to use the proceeds to open trust funds for her grandchildren, the oldest of whom is nine.
"You reach an age when you think about the future," she said. "But visiting Yankee Stadium with my family will be about the past because I want them to know how New York feels about Thurman."
Munson helped the Yankees win the 1977 and 1978 World Series.
The collection will include an uncashed check from teammate Reggie Jackson and signature bats delivered days after Munson died. It won't include the MVP or Rookie of the Year trophies.
"I'm putting my toes in the water with this," Diana Munson said. "I'm not sure what else I may sell in the future."
Kranepool said each item will include a notarized letter of authenticity from the player's family.
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