The baseball world is mourning the death of Harmon Clayton Killebrew, who died Tuesday at the age of 74. As such, it would seem unfitting to blog about anything else this morning. The 13-time All-Star, 1969 American League Most Valuable Player and 1984 Hall of Fame inductee played 22 seasons in the majors, collecting 2,086 hits, 573 home runs and 1,584 RBIs.
“It’s a sad day. We lost an icon. We lost Paul Bunyan,” former Minnesota Twins star Kent Hrbek said Tuesday, speaking about baseball’s great loss.
Killebrew broke into the big leagues at the tender age of 17 with the Washington Senators, where he spent the next seven seasons until the team’s relocation to Minnesota in 1961. He was a late bloomer. As a youngster, he was very vulnerable to strikeouts, and led the league with 142 Ks in 1962. It wasn’t until his fifth year in Washington where he really burst onto the scene when he hit 42 home runs and drove in 105 runs in 1959.
Killebrew wasn’t known for hitting for average as much as he was for his raw power, which generated monstrous home runs, regularly hitting the ball over 400 feet and topping out at 520 feet.
He was also considered one of the classier players of his generation, rarely arguing with umpires and was named captain of the Minnesota Twins in 1961. As he passes this week, we continue to hear more and more stories pour out about him from across the country.
Although Killebrew will always have a special place in Washington baseball lore, he is a considered a godsend in Minnesota. Without him, the Minnesota Twins may not even exist today. He helped usher in the national pastime to an area that had not seen professional baseball of this magnitude before and was the face of the franchise for well over a decade.
There may be some doubters, but Killebrew will always be linked to the Major League Baseball logo. Most argue that he was the inspiration for the logo that debuted in 1969 in the same way Jerry West represents the NBA emblem, but others are skeptical. That being said, comparing the two side by side, it’s hard for Killebrew not to cross your mind.
It was strange hearing the news on Friday that Killebrew would be discontinuing treatment for esophageal cancer and that he would be entering hospice care. It is rare to see an athlete of the magnitude succumb to an illness, but if one thing’s for sure its that Killebrew put a lot of time and thought into the decision and that it would be out of the best interest of everyone involved, that’s the type of man he was.
For many baseball fans, Killebrew is a name way too old for their generation. The man who helped usher in baseball in Minnesota and was reputedly an inspiration for the logo we see all over the field and uniforms is now no longer with us. It is time to reflect on his significance to the game and think how lucky we are to be able to tell people of all the legends we have the privilege of watching today.
Ted Younging and Will Yoder blog about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offer their viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.