As a young die hard baseball fan I only knew of Harmon Killebrew from the All Star Game & the occasional appearance on the Game of the Week. He came to life for me on his baseball cards, both in his pictures on the fromt & his big stats on the back. I heard & read how he was one of the most feared hitters in the American League. Being in New York I was exposed to AL baseball as well so would catch a glimpse of him when he played the AL New York club. He was always known as a good guy, a religious man who never drank or smoked. Harmon Killebrew was a baseball giant from the great days of my youth & always a favorite America Leaguer for me. Now at the time of his passing I would like to pay him tribute:
Harmon Clayton Killebrew was born on June 29, 1936 in Payette, Idaho. He is only one of 26 MLB players to be born in the state of Idaho. Killebrew was a 12 letter man at various sports in high school, including All American Quarterback. While attending the College of Idaho he was hitting balls a long way for tremendous averages. An Idaho Senator told Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith about him, and he was eventually signed as a bonus baby for $50,000 at the age of 17. He played briefly at the major league level for five seasons until he finally arrived for good in 1959.
Killebrew went on to become one of the games most feared hitters. He was known for hitting massive HRs & monumental blasts. He hit over 40 HRs eight times over the next dozen years, in a time where few people were hitting anywhere near that many. He led the American League in HRs six times (including three straight years (1962-1964). He drove in over 100 runs nine times while leading the league in that category three times. Killebrew also led the league in walks in four times, intentional walks three times, on base & slugging percentage one time each.
He was named to eleven All Star teams, & in 1965 hit a game tying HR off Jim Maloney at the All Star Game held in his home ball park, Metropolitan Stadium. He would hit the longest HR ever recorded at that ballpark two years later. Today the site of Metropolitan Stadium is now the Mall of America, & a red seat located at 520 feet from the original site of home plate commemorates the blast.
He won the 1969 A.L. MVP Award setting franchise records that still stand today, in HRs (49) RBIs (140) & walks (145). Killebrew was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
He was the first star player when the Senators franchise first moved to Minnesota in 1961. In 1962 he & team mate Bob Allison became the first team mates to hit grand slam HRs in the same inning. He led his Twins team to the 1965 World Series, falling short to Sandy Koufax & the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh game. Killebrew & team mate Zoilo Versalles, led the Twins, by each batting .286 against Dodger pitching.
He began his career as an outfielder, & actually hit seven triples in 1961. Injuries through his career would slow him down & cause him to move to the infield. He played third base & eventually moved over to first base, becoming the first A.L. player to play three different positions as an All Star. By 1973, the new designated hitter rule would give him a chance to play out his career a bit longer.
Twins President David Peter issued the following statement: "No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew. Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest.
However, more importantly Harmon's legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man."