In 1976, a 20-year-old Buck Showalter was spending the summer in Cape Cod, working as a short-order cook and playing for the Hyannis Mets.
That’s right — Showalter was a Met long before he skippered them.
The now 66-year-old manager of the New York Mets was playing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Players had to work part-time jobs in order to maintain their amateur status, so Showalter got a job at the Hyannis Newsstand, working the breakfast shift every morning before heading to the ballpark in the afternoon.
“I would cook breakfast from 6-10 in the morning at the Hyannis newsstand, a little 12-seater,” Showalter said Tuesday night at Chelsea Piers during the annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner. “And then I would get the lunch menu ready, go wash my uniform, take a nap, hang out a couple on drives and go out for a spodiodi night.
“That was summer in the Cape.”
Showalter sure did hang those line drives.
Maybe it was the port wine and bourbon concoction mixed with the bacon grease that fueled the former outfielder and first baseman, but Showalter would go on to win the batting title that summer by hitting .434. The previous record was held by Munson himself.
Showalter told the tale while accepting an award in Munson’s name Tuesday night. The “Thurmans” are presented annually to athletes who have displayed on-field excellence, served their communities and worked toward the betterment of their sport. Munson’s wife Diana has presented the awards annually since the former Yankees catcher passed away 43 years ago, and the dinner benefits the AHRC New York City Foundation, which has helped keep Munson’s memory alive through charitable endeavors. The foundation has raised more than $19 million for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Showalter was one of four recipients this year, along with Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo and Hall of Fame former professional golfer Annika Sorenstam.
The award was even more meaningful given the NL Manager of the Year’s connection to Munson.
“I broke a guy’s record named Thurman Munson. And that was really cool itself, but what was even cooler was when I got home that summer, I had a telegram,” Showalter said. “Where I grew up, we had 48 people who graduated high school together. You had to hustle for a prom date, I’m telling you. It was a little public school in Florida and my dad was the principal. So when you get a telegram, the whole community knows about it. It’s like Mayberry. And I got a telegram from Thurman Munson.”
The telegram was congratulating Showalter on breaking his record. Showalter still has that telegram and still loves to joke about who holds the real record.
“I’d love to ask him if someone made him do it,” Showalter said. “He did it with a wood bat, I did it with an aluminum bat. He didn’t put that in the telegram.”
Later in his career, Showalter played for a Yankees affiliate in the Florida State League. His team would go from Hollywood, Florida to Fort Lauderdale to see the Yankees play spring training games, with the late George Steinbrenner letting the minor leaguers sit in the stands.
He found himself drawn to Munson. He watched him warm up, communicate with pitchers and the way he strolled up to the plate.
“My eyes kept being drawn to the way he carried himself and the way he played, the sincerity that he brought to the game and the pureness of heart that he had for the Yankees and for the competition,” Showalter said.
While Showalter may not have had the chance to form a relationship with Munson, he was still a player that influenced the manager’s career. It was a fitting end to the offseason for Showalter, who hopes to have as much success with the 2023 New York Mets as he did with the 1976 Hyannis Mets.
“I’m hoping this summer can rival my summer in the Cape,” he said.
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