Harmon KillebrewPosted 13 May 2011 by Wee Bey
He never played a
game whole year in the minor leagues.
Harmon Killebrew is entering hospice care, and nearing the end of his fight with cancer.
Writing news obituaries follows a pretty standard format, and the defining characteristic is the obit appositive. Essentially, they go like this: “Insert Name, insert defining appositive phrase here, died from insert cause here. He was XX.” So, the day Richard Nixon got on that helicopter, his obit was destined to read, “Richard Nixon, the only man to resign the presidency of the United States …”
This format exists, and with good reason. But where to go with Harmon Killebrew? He’s a Hall of Famer. Hit 573 home runs. Had his team moved to Minneapolis from Washington and went on to become the Twins’ best ambassador, showing up and signing autographs, showing up and throwing out the first pitch, showing up over and again, during a lot of years when his appearance was the highlight of the game or maybe the whole season. There’s a statue of him outside Target Field now, showing off his powerful, level swing.
But I keep coming back to this: He never played a
game a whole year in the minors. Legend has it Killebrew was hitting .850 for a semi-professional team in his home state of Idaho when Calvin Griffith, then-owner of the Senators, got a tip from a Idaho Sen. Herman Welker about this kid tearing the cover off the ball back in his home state. The Senators signed him, and, four days later, all of 17 years old, Harmon was in the show. He never looked back.
I never got to see Killebrew play. I can tell you the man’s still an icon throughout the Upper Midwest. I can tell you his monster seasons in the mid-1960s still get talked about, in Minnesota, in Iowa, in the Dakotas, and, I am sure, back in Idaho. I can tell you he was part of the 1965 World Series, one of the best ever played. I can tell you that despite his nickname of Killer, he’s described as a kind and decent man by all those who know him, and that his talent and his demeanor made him beloved in all those places in a way few athletes can ever claim.
May your last days treat you well. May the road rise up to meet you, Harmon. You were a big leaguer every day of your life.