AHRC hosts 44th annual Thurman Munson Awards 

Chelsea Piers was once again the site of the 44th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner for the benefit of the AHRC NYC Foundation. Since 1980, one year after her husband’s tragic plane crash death in August 1979, Diana Munson has been instrumental in sharing Thurman’s memory to fundraise for his adopted charity.

Speaking for AHRC, CEO Marco Damiani thanked Mrs. Munson for her continued support that has raised $700,000 in this special year that celebrates the agency’s 75th anniversary. “Her support continues to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be functioning members of society” Damiani said.

Thurman Munson Awards Dinner organizer John Cirillo, center, poses with the Mets’ Howard Johnson, left, and the Yankees’ Tino Martinez. Photo by Jim Dolan

Each year awards are given to a New York Yankee and a New York Met as well as other local New York sports figures who have played “The Munson Way.”

First, event organizer John Cirillo introduced Bronx-born Anne Gregory-O’Connell, who was a trailblazer in women’s basketball. Gregory-O’Connell was the first female to be enshrined in the Fordham University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986 after establishing her dominance during her all-star collegiate career (1976-80), scoring 2,548 points for the Rams.  Recalling the 1970s, she said, “Even if you weren’t a Yankee fan back then, you still loved Thurman Munson and you also respected him too.”

Next, Howard “HoJo” Johnson was honored as one of the members of the Mets’ 1986 World Series Championship team.  After retirement Johnson was a part of the Cyclones’ coaching staff that brought baseball back to Brooklyn in 2001. During his playing days, Johnson and several of his teammates attended Munson Award events. “Now being on the other side to receive this award is a special honor,” Johnson said. 

Last, coming over from the Seattle Mariners in 1996, Tino Martinez was the missing cog in the Yankees’ wheel that propelled the team to four World Series championships by the end of the 2000 season. “We were a team of grinders back then, just like Thurman,” Martinez said. “Every time we passed his locker at the old Stadium, it was an inspiration for us to go out there and play hard.”

Diana Munson summed up the event by saying, “I am so happy to be back and see all the people that have kept Thurman’s memory alive after all these years. Some say it wouldn’t last, but here we are. I know that Thurman’s looking down at us smiling right now. You know, that little fat catcher from Ohio.”

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