On the eve of the opening day for the Minnesota Twins we take a look at the first Minnesota ball player inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Harmon Killebrew was inducted into the Hall in 1984. It wouldn’t be until 1991, when Rod Carew entered the shrine, that another player would be depicted in the team’s official bronze plaque wearing a Twins hat. Since then, Kirby Puckett (2001) and Bert Blyleven (2011) have been voted into the Hall of Fame and are featured wearing our hometown team’s uniform.
Killebrew was born in Idaho in 1936 and, as an 18-year-old, broke into Major League Baseball as a member of the Washington Senators. When the Senators moved west to Minnesota, so did Harmon. He played 14 seasons in a Twins uniform, retiring at the end of the 1975 season as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
The power-hitting statistics Killebrew compiled are hard to fathom coming from a man who stood 5’10” and weighed a paltry, by today’s standards, 215 pounds, but “Hammerin’ Harmon” would go on to hit 573 home runs in his career. When he retired, he was fourth on the list of all-time home run record hitters behind just Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Frank Robinson.
Looking at Harmon Killebrew’s autograph on the wall in the studio hallway at Twin Cities PBS, one cannot help but notice how classy-looking his signature is. Watch him during an October 1999 interview with Eric Eskola and Cathy Wurzer on Almanac and you can’t help but marvel that his personality was as classy as his signature. He seems just as happy to talk about former Twins owner, Calvin Griffith, as he might be about his own accomplishments as a Hall of Fame slugger.
Reading his page on the Hall of Fame website reveals the following: “Although he was known as ‘Killer’ at the plate, Harmon Killebrew was a gentle and quiet man off the field. When asked what he liked to do for fun, he once replied, ‘Well, I like to wash dishes, I guess.'”
Former Twins Public Relations Director Tom Mee once said of Harmon, “He is one of the finest individuals in the major leagues… to know Harmon Killebrew is to be a Killebrew fan.” And his old Twins teammate Rich Reese called him, “One of the classiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” further stating, “he treated people with respect, even with the stature he had.”
Harmon Killebrew died in 2011 – but no doubt continues to knock curve balls out of the park in the great beyond.