More than a dozen Major League Baseball players have died in plane crashes, but probably the most famous among them are Roberto Clemente, Thurman Munson, and Roy Halladay.
We’ll talk about the particulars of those three superstars’ deaths in a minute, but first, here is the complete list of big league baseball players who died in a plane crash:
- Marv Goodwin, died October 21, 1925
- Elmer Gedeon, died April, 1944
- Tom Gastall, died September 20, 1956
- Charlie Peete, died November 27, 1956
- Ken Hubbs, died February 13, 1964
- Nestor Chavez, died March 16, 1969
- Roberto Clemente, died December 31, 1972
- Irv Medlinger, died September 3, 1975
- Thurman Munson, died August 2, 1979
- Jim Hardin, died March 9, 1991
- Cory Lidle, died October 11, 2006
- Roy Halladay, died November 7, 2017
- Tyson Brummett, died July 3, 2020
Now, back to Clemente, Munson, and Halladay …
Roberto Clemente – December 31, 1972
Not even three months removed from collecting his 3000th career hit and just over two months after his Pittsburgh Pirates lost a five-game National League Championship Series to the Cincinnati Reds, Clemente decided he needed to be at work on New Year’s Eve 1972.
Only, this time, “work” consisted of flying with a load of relief supplies that he had secured for victims of a massive earthquake in Nicaragua.
But just after takeoff, the small plane carrying the future denizen of Cooperstown experienced engine failure and crashed into the ocean, killing everyone on board.
By August of 1979, Thurman Munson was the grizzled captain of the New York Yankees, a decorated catcher with a decade’s worth of major league wear and tear on his body.
During his time in the Bronx, Munson had become a perennial All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, and the 1976 American League Most Valuable Player.
And, about a year before, in 1978, Munson had become a pilot and purchased multiple private planes so that he could fly home to Canton, Ohio, on the Yankees’ off days.
On August 2, 1979, Munson was practicing his new craft at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport when a landing went wrong — the flaps didn’t extend, the airplane dropped too low, and Munson crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Munson’s two passengers survived, but the might-have-been Hall of Famer perished.
Roy Halladay – November 7, 2017
Halladay pitched in relative obscurity for the Toronto Blue Jays during the first 12 years of his career. Despite snagging a Cy Young Award in 2003, Doc was never able to help the Jays into the playoffs and his efforts were often overshadowed by hurlers from bigger markets.
In 2010, though, Toronto traded Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he paid immediate dividends — another Cy Young Award and a perfect game in May, followed by a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds that October in the National League Division Series.
Halladay hung up his spikes in 2013 at the relatively young age of 36. By 2017, he had taken up flying small planes for recreation.
On November 7, 2017, he was performing a series of acrobatic maneuvers when he crashed, upside down, in shallow waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
He did not survive.
Little more than a year after his death, in January of 2019, Halladay was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
See Halladay at work in this bullpen session from 2013 …