Even though I grew up in California I was a Minnesota Twin’s fan as a kid and Harmon Killebrew was my favorite player. Even as a 12 year old I could see something special about him- beyond just baseball. He was the ‘gentle giant’ . He was the team leader in a quiet way that would eventually lead the Twins to a World Series in 1965, a highlight in my own life and no doubt Harm’s.
I remember trying to hook up the TV antenna to get any reception so I could see him lead his Minnesota Twins on the Saturday Game of the week with Dizzy Dean announcing.
Baseball back then was special and Killebrew was my special player above all others.
CAREER AND LIFE
Harmon Killebrew has spent the past 10 years or so helping others with cancer and involved with promoting hospice when one is near the end of life’s path. Killebrew recently made a statement that he, himself, has exhausted all ‘options’ for treating his own cancer and has turned to that institution he has promoted so well and will spend his last days under hospice care. It’s hard for me to say… It seems like yesterday Killebrew was bringing thrills to this young kid. Now we’re both in our later stages of life and facing mortality; of course, we all face it, some sooner than later. And Killebrew has taken on this final challenge as he has done during his entire life
Some ballplayers are heros for a short time during their baseball careers . The true hero carries the tag through an entire life. Can’t say there are many who do. Of living guys, Musial comes to mind. Can’t really think of many others who have lived their entire lives playing by the golden rule.
Back in the early 60s there was one tv game a week and, for me it came with a a snowy picture on channel 13, which was the only channel carrying the game. There were only four channels , period, back then, unlike the 200+ of today TV games around the clock. Waiting a week for the next televised game seemed like an eternity but made baseball then even more special. No instant gratification then. I was happy to see Killebrew any way I could, even as a shadowy figure obscured in a snowy screen of dots along with the sound of static.
The Twins had their own ‘Murderers Row’ with Killebrew, Bob Allison, Oliva, Earl Battey, Don Mincher and others..
Harmon could play third base or first base. But it was his power hitting and soft-spoken leadership 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 in a game, 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, injuring himself. 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 meant putting performance-enhancing drugs in his body. I doubt that even if Harmon were playing in this era he would have even considered doing such, himself.
It was a real thrill when Killebrew came to Oakland in the 80s, I believe it was , to become part of the A’s broadcasting team. He was as good a color man as he was a ballplayer; everything he did he seemed to do well. Soft-spoken and very kind, he was also known as ‘Humble H arm’ during his playing days.
In more recent years he has had health problems. The first time. around ten years ago, he said that if he got thru that bout he woudl dedicate the rest of his life to helping kids with similar health problems. That he has done, very quietly. I didn’t even know until now.
HARMON KILLEBREW SUCCESS WAS ON AND OFF THE FIELD, DURING HIS BASEBALL CAREER AND LONG AFTER
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.