Squatty's son proposes before father's memorial

Updated: July 10, 2004, 7:08 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Michael Munson wanted his late father to be a part of this moment. So he knelt down with the ring right there at Yankee Stadium and proposed to his girlfriend, trembling just in front of his dad's plaque in Monument Park.

Michelle Bruey said yes, one more way to honor former New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson on an already special day.

"I was really nervous," Michael Munson said. "I wanted her to get a sense of all this, too, just so she could understand."

The catcher's widow, Diana, was at Yankee Stadium on Saturday to throw out the first pitch at Old-timers' Day, joined by her three children and five grandkids.

Nearly 25 years ago, on Aug. 2, 1979, Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, at age 32, cutting short his All-Star career. His No. 15 was immediately retired by the Yankees.

One of the most beloved and respected players ever to wear pinstripes, the fiery Munson won the 1976 AL MVP and helped lead the Yankees to consecutive World Series titles in '77 and '78.

His memory lives on at Yankee Stadium, where his locker remains in the clubhouse, unused, right next to current captain Derek Jeter's stall.

"I always said that New Yorkers got Thurman. They understood him," Diana Munson said. "We don't get here very often, so it's pretty monumental when we come here. I'm flooded with memories, lots of good memories -- even the fights he got in."

Now endowed with the same chubby cheeks and stocky build as his father, Michael Munson, 28, was too young to remember much of his dad playing for the Yankees. But he's heard plenty of stories and seen all the old films.

"My favorite memory of Thurman was running from first to third, chugging along with that body," Diana said. "People said he was cocky, which he was, but he backed it up."

She called Michael "the most private Munson by far," which made his public marriage proposal all the more surprising.

"I had no idea," Bruey said, clutching her new engagement ring. "It's unbelievable."

The Yankees also posthumously honored Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing with a plaque in Monument Park before they played the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Ruffing holds the franchise record for wins by a right-hander with 231. He had four straight 20-win seasons from 1936-39, leading New York to four consecutive World Series championships.

Ruffing joins Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds as the only Yankees pitchers with a plaque in Monument Park.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press