Even though I grew up in California I was a Minnesota Twinis fan as a kid and Harmon Killebrew was my favorite player. Even as a 12 year old I could see something special about him. He was the ‘gentle giant’ . I remember trying to hook up the TV antenna to get reception so I could see the Twins play on the Saturday Game of the week with Dizzy Dean announcing.
Golden Era of Baseball
Back then there was one game a week and usually a snowy picture on channel 13, which was the only channel carrying teh game, out of Sacramento.
The Twins had their own ‘Murderers Row’ with Killebrew, Bob Allison, Earl Battey, Don Micher and others..
Harmon could play thrid base or first base. But it was his power hitting that made him special – and it was all natural, Idaho-raised Potato Power, if you will. Yes, he struck out a lot, but then home run hitters do. But , when he did catch one it was usually no fluke.
I remember one of those TV games where the Twins hit four homers in a row. Pretty unheard of these days but back then you’d even have a single player hit four homeruns, such as Willie Mays, hometown hero.
One low point came when Harmon had an unfortunate accident in the 1965 All-Star Game, I believe it was, when he did the splits stetching out for a ball , while fielding first base. He was out the rest of the year, as I recall, and that was one of the few years he didn’t hit 40 homers ; Killebrew was the only player to hit 40 or more in 11 or more seasons, other than the Babe himself. Something to say for consistency. By comparison, Barry Bonds, regarded by many as the greatest player of the recent era, only hit 40 homeruns one time thru his first eight years, at Pittsburg; only after coming to San Francisco and becoming the lead instigator at ‘win at all costs, even if it means putting performance-enhancing drugs in your body. I doubt that even if Harmon were playing in this era he wouldn’t have considered doing such, himself.
It was a real thrill when Killebrew came to Oakland in the 80s, I blieve, to become part of the broadcasting team. He was as good a person as he was a ballplayer, maybe better. Soft-spoken, he was also known as ‘Humble Hjarm.’
In more recent years he has had health problems. The first time he said that if he got thru it he woudl dedicate the rest of his life to helping kids with similar health problems. That he has done, very quietly.
HARMON KILLEBREW PERSONIFIED BASEBALL’S GOLDEN ERA OF THE 1950S AND 60S
It was a sad day about 5 years ago when Bob Allison passed. Allison was like Roger maris was to Mickey Mantle, MoCovey to Mays. I thought about mortality and was glad that at least Killebrew was still around.
Haven’t heard much of Killebrew in recent years. I just happened to be turning down the radio dial and happened to hear a guest on a sports talk show talk about knowing Harmon and what a great guy he is. I was happy to hear the word ‘is’ because, for awhile I was afraid it was going to be a eulogy. You know how you don’t hear of someone for awhile and then suddenly it’s only when they pass that they’re heralded again.
I never heard the full detailsl on the radio show, other than how nice a guy Harmon was, as I tuned in late. I had to check the internet to find out that Harmon has had esophogeal (sp) cancer since December, 2010 and, that after initially being given a good prognosis, had decided to check into hospice for his remaining days. He had accepted this as you might exepct from a guy like him, expressing his gratefulness to his family and friends, and fans for their best wishes.
Harmon is only 74, which seems pretty young as U am older now. A lot of my boyhood idols lost the lustre as the got older, doing foolish things. Not Harmon. He’s always been the gentleman and fan favorite, on a team with many great guys… Versailles, Rollins, Carew, Pasqual, Kaat, Blyleven.etc. Those were some teams.
1965 was about the last year I could take time to follow the Twins as teenage-hood brought on many unwanted responsibilites. But it was a miracle year and couldn’t have been more exciting as my farefwell to baseball as a kid. I decided to start a fan club for the Twins. Ran an ad in Sport Magazine and ended up with over 200 members. Even Calvin Griffith, owner of the team, would answer my letters to him, which I still have somewhere. I didn’t agree with a lot of his ‘secret ‘ decissions’ such as bringing up players who would never make it. Fortuantely, there must have been a GM that made most of the decisions, as the Twins went on to make it to the World Series that year! I always say that I take partial credit for their first -ever entry into the series with my little fam club. I was even given a baseball, autographed by the entire team. But, like the gullible person I can be, I agreed to sell it to one of the fans, mailing it even before I got the money. Never did get the money….
So, Harmon, here’s to a great career and life and hope for oas many more peaceful, comfortable days as possible. I’ll be thinking of you daily and will never forget the greeat joy you breought me and many others , both as a boy and adult. They don’t seem to make them like you anymore. Thanks.