1979 New York Yankees season

1979 New York Yankees season

Template:MLB yearly infobox The 1979 New York Yankees season was the 77th season for the franchise in New York and its 79th season overall. The season was marked by the death of their starting catcher, Thurman Munson, on August 2. The team finished with a record of 89-71, finishing fourth in the American League East, 13.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, ending the Yankees' three-year domination of the AL East. New York was managed by Billy Martin, and Bob Lemon. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium.


In January 1979, the Yankees attempted to acquire first baseman Rod Carew from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Chris Chambliss, Juan Beníquez, Dámaso García, and Dave Righetti, but the deal fell through.[1] Carew was later traded to the California Angels.

Notable transactions

Regular season

On August 6, the Yankees flew to Ohio to attend Thurman Munson's memorial service, then flew back to New York play the Orioles on Monday Night Baseball.[6] Bobby Murcer hit a three run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, then drove in two more runs in the ninth with a single off former Yankee Tippy Martinez to account for all five Yankee runs in a 5-4 win.[7] After the game, Murcer gave the bat to Munson's widow.[6]

On September 12, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox joined the 3,000 hit club with a single off Jim Beattie of the Yankees.[8] The same game also marked the final appearance at Fenway Park for Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter.

On September 18, pitcher Bob Kammeyer set a single-season record by giving up eight earned runs without recording an out in his only game of the season. It was his last major league appearance.

Thurman Munson

Thurman Munson's number 15 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1979.

Munson was frequently homesick, and took flying lessons so that he could fly home to his family in Canton on off-days. On August 2, 1979, he was practicing takeoffs and landings in his new Cessna Citation I/SP jet at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport. On the third touch-and-go, Munson failed to lower the flaps for landing and allowed the aircraft to sink too low before increasing engine power, causing the jet to clip a tree and fall short of the runway. The plane then hit a tree stump and burst into flames, killing Munson (who was trapped inside) and injuring two other companions. It is believed that the inability to get out of the plane, and the ensuing asphyxiation, is what killed Munson, rather than injuries sustained on impact or burns (the two passengers survived). He was 32 years old.[9][broken citation]

Munson's sudden death was major news across the nation and especially sorrowed the baseball community. Munson was survived by his wife, Diana, and their three children. The day after his death, before the start of the Yankees' four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx, the Yankees paid tribute to their fallen captain in a pre-game ceremony during which the starters stood at their defensive positions, save for the catcher's box, which remained empty. At the conclusion of Robert Merrill's musical selection, the fans (announced attendance 51,151) burst into a 10-minute standing ovation.

Season standings

AL East W L GB Pct.
Baltimore Orioles 102 57 -- .642
Milwaukee Brewers 95 66 8 .590
Boston Red Sox 91 69 11.5 .569
New York Yankees 89 71 13.5 .556
Detroit Tigers 85 76 18 .528
Cleveland Indians 81 80 22 .503
Toronto Blue Jays 53 109 50.5 .327

Notable transactions


1979 New York Yankees
Pitchers Catchers


Outfielders Manager


Player stats


Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
C Munson, ThurmanThurman Munson 97 382 110 .288 3 39
1B Chambliss, ChrisChris Chambliss 149 554 155 .280 18 63
2B Randolph, WillieWillie Randolph 153 574 155 .270 5 61
3B Nettles, GraigGraig Nettles 145 521 132 .253 20 73
SS Dent, BuckyBucky Dent 141 431 99 .230 2 32
LF Piniella, LouLou Piniella 130 461 137 .297 11 69
CF Rivers, MickeyMickey Rivers 74 286 82 .287 3 25
RF Jackson, ReggieReggie Jackson 131 465 138 .297 29 89
DH Spencer, JimJim Spencer 106 295 85 .288 23 53

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Beníquez, JuanJuan Beníquez 62 142 36 .254 4 17


Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Beattie, JimJim Beattie 15 76 3 6 5.21 32
Righetti, DaveDave Righetti 3 17.1 0 1 3.63 13

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV ERA SO
Burris, RayRay Burris 15 1 3 0 6.18 19
Mirabella, PaulPaul Mirabella 10 0 4 0 8.79 4
Griffin, MikeMike Griffin 3 0 0 0 4.15 5
Anderson, RickRick Anderson 1 0 0 0 3.86 0
Slagle, RogerRoger Slagle 1 0 0 0 0.00 2
Kammeyer, BobBob Kammeyer 1 0 0 0 0

Awards and honors


Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Columbus Clippers International League Gene Michael
AA West Haven Yankees Eastern League Stump Merrill
A Fort Lauderdale Yankees Florida State League Doug Holmquist
Short-Season A Oneonta Yankees New York–Penn League Art Mazmanian
Rookie Paintsville Yankees Appalachian League Bill Livesey
LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: Columbus, West Haven, Oneonta, Paintsville[18]



  • 1979 New York Yankees
  • 1979 New York Yankees team page at www.baseball-almanac.com