My favorite player on those late 1970s teams was the catcher, Thurman Munson. I've always had a fondness for catchers, partly because they're the ones who call the game, partly because they have the hardest job of anyone on the diamond. (My current favorite Yankee is Jorge Posada.) Thurm was also just fun to watch. He was totally into what he was doing, and he was very very good at it. It was a good time for great catchers, as Thurm was a contemporary of Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench.
Unfortunately, Thurm's career was cut much shorter than his fellows due to a plane crash that happened 30 years ago today. On 2 August 1979, Thurm -- who was a pilot -- was flying his private plane and it went down.