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Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew dies after battle with cancer

May 17, 2011, 11:48 AM EDT

Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew entered into hospice care last week following unsuccessful treatments for esophageal cancer and the Twins just announced that the Hall of Famer passed away this morning at age 74.

Killebrew is arguably the greatest player in Twins history and one of the greatest power hitters in MLB history, ranking fifth all time in homers and 10th in adjusted OPS+ when he retired in 1975.

However, his legacy goes far beyond that. Killebrew is universally regarded as one of the game’s nicest superstars and is beloved by seemingly everyone he’s ever met, including numerous current Twins players who bonded with him in recent years.

Twins president Dave St. Peter issued a statement about Killebrew’s death:

No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory. 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.

RIP, Killer.

  1. wonkypenguin - May 17, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I met him a couple of years ago at Twins Fest. He seemed to be just a fantastic human being from all accounts, the type of person worth idolizing.

  2. ThatGuy - May 17, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Rough week for MN sports fans, first Boogeyman and now The Killer.

  3. spudchukar - May 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    The ultimate “Gentle Giant”. If they play baseball in heaven Harmon is in the starting line-up today.

    • Lincoln93 - May 17, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      What do you mean, “if?”

      RIP, Killer.

    • spudchukar - May 17, 2011 at 3:39 PM

      I was wondering if someone might not ask that. Of course, questioning that was very silly on my part. Kudos, Linc.

  4. pisano - May 17, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    A truly great player and great human being. It’s a shame people like Harmon ever have to leave us. God rest his soul. He will be missed.

  5. halladaysbiceps - May 17, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    I am so sorry to hear this. Great player/HOF. Cancer is hard to deal with. I lost both my dad and grandmother to cancer in the last few years.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. God bless all.

  6. ddkendall - May 17, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    As a kid growing up in Minnesota I always loved to go to Old Metropolitan stadium to watch the Twins. You had the opportunity to see players like Bob Allison, Earl Battey, Zoilo Versailles,Perdo Ramos & Comillo Pasqual, but everyones favorite was always Harmon Killebrew. Even though I know it’s not the case, it seemed like everytime I went to the “Met” I saw the “Killer” hit a homerun and they were never the excue me type of homers but orbital shots. Even all these years later I am still shocked to see this gentle – man leave us.

  7. bloodysock - May 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Very sad day for a great ambassador of the game. I remember as a very young kid collecting baseball cards towards the end of his career, his card was one I would always seem to get in my pack. Maybe this will spur me to go look in the garage at those cards that I haven’t taken a peek at in around 20 years or so.

  8. philsieg - May 17, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Sigh, and another small bit of my childhood is gone. Before Killebrew finally stuck with the Senators in 1959, he spent parts of several seasons playing third base for my hometown Chattanooga Lookouts. In 1957 and 1958, I never missed a home game, courtesy of my favorite uncle. I used to sit at the end of the Lookouts’ dugout and talk to this shy young man from Idaho, who must have though playing ball in the South of the ’50s was like playing ball on another planet. One night he gave me one of his broken bats, which I immediate took home, screwed together and taped up, and proceeded to play sandlot ball with it, though at nine I could barely swing it.

    I doubt that many realize this, but Engel Stadium at that time had the deepest centerfield in organized baseball – 471 feet to the Coca-Cola bottle atop the apex of the LF and RF walls juncture. One night in ’57 – and I was there – Killebrew hit a ball directly over that Coke bottle, the only time that was ever done. It’s chronicled in Steve Martini’s “The Chattanooga Lookouts: A Hundred Seasons of Scenic City Baseball” (pg.135). What the book doesn’t tell you is that the ball not only cleared the Coke bottle in dead center, it also cleared the 3rd Street viaduct (4 lanes) and landed in the railroad yards on the other side with enough force to bounce once high enough to be seen from inside the Stadium.

    Play-by-play guys are fond of saying that such-and-such a ball was “crushed”. They say it frequently. If it’s true that often, we need another term then for the ball Killer hit, because crushed just doesn’t get it done.

    RIP, Killer. A little boy’s gonna miss you.

    • Detroit Michael - May 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      It was 483 feet to center field in the Polo Grounds, so before 1958, the deepest centerfield couldn’t have been in Chattanooga.

      I know; I’m nitpicking, but I couldn’t help it because you made me curious. Thanks for sharing.

      • philsieg - May 17, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Good point, I forgot about the Polo Grounds. Of course, center field was a moving target there much of the time. From ballparks.com:

        Center field: 433 (1911), 483 (1923), 484.75 (1927), 505 (1930), 430 (1931), 480 (1934), 430 (1938), 505 (1940), 490 (1943), 505 (1944), 448 (1945), 490 (1946), 484 (1947), 505 (1949), 483 (1952), 480 (1953), 483 (1954), 480 (1955), 475 (1962), 483 (1963).

        But in the ’50s it looks like it was deeper no matter where you put the pin on the chart.

        Gus Chamberlain was the Lookouts broadcaster in those days. The press box at the Stadium wasn’t air conditioned, so Gus would set up a folding table behind home plate with a long interconnect running to the box for the mike. Because my uncle knew Gus, I got to be the “color’ guy for a few innings when he was broadcasting. (I knew all the players’ stats by heart.) Gus used to refer to it as the deepest centerfield in organized ball. Shucks, I was just the 9-year-old color guy. How could I contradict him?

  9. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 17, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    It’s not arguably; he simply *was* the best Twin that ever played, and the kindest. Rest in peace, sir.

  10. bigtull - May 17, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Long live Harmon Killebrew!!!

  11. uyf1950 - May 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    Growing up in New York in the 50′s & 60′s I had a lot of chances to watch Harmon Killebrew and the Senators than the Twins versus the Yankees. I also watched many of the “original” Home Run Derby contests on TV. Mr. Killebrew was one of the truly greats and always the consummate ballplayer. Rest In Peace, Harmon Killebrew. God Bless.

  12. buzzerj - May 17, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    As a kid growing up in the Twin Cities in the 1960′s you bet I was a Twins fan. Harmon Killebrew was the greatest Twin in those days. Tony Oliva, Rich Rollins, Zoilo Versalles, Earl Battey, Mudcat Grant, Jim Perry and Bob Allison were special too but Harmon was the man. He was the man because he was not just a baseball superstar, he was a quiet leader and such a good guy. What an ambassador he was in a Twins uniform and after. He was a true wonderful human being. I once saw an exhibition at Met Stadium between the SF Giants and Twins. Harmon and Willie Mays had a special home run competition after the game. We snuck into the Vikings pressbox to watch it. Willie won 5-3 but both were true champions and we knew we were watching baseball history. The Twins faced the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series. We watched the games in our elementary school’s library. The Twins got beat but they were still our heroes. And Harmon was everyone’s hero. God broke the mold when he made that man. I am crying while I’m writing this. He wore #3 but he was the best there ever was both on and off the field. God bless Harmon Killlebrew, I love ya man. I know he’ll be hitting homeruns in heaven from now on.

  13. yahmule - May 17, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    I hope the creeps who used steroids to pass him on the all time home run list feel good about themselves today.

  14. Eternal Optimist - May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    When I was reading this I finally realized why I am considered as such an old fogy when it comes to evaluating the current batch of professional star athletes. I was influenced too much by Killer, Aaron, Clemente and the like. These guys were the best of the best, but they let their performance do their talking for them. Nowadays is seems like the only way that you can really be appreciated as a star is if you use your electronic media to blow your own horn. It was easy for me to root for Harmon Killebrew, even though I was a White Sox fan. I find myself more and more rooting against people just because of their boorish behavior. It makes me sad to think that we have one less good guy to remind us how it’s supposed to be done.

  15. aronmantoo - May 17, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    I am happy to say that i saw the man play at Yankee Stadium, It’s sadding to think that it’s taking juicers to pass him on the home run list

  16. rainey13 - May 17, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    So many fond memories as a kid at the old Met, watching Harmon and the Twins play. And he did it all without steroids or being obnoxious. RIP, Harmon – and thanks for the great memories!

  17. guypatsfan - May 18, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    I grew up in a National League city so I never got to see him play, but I certainly remember seeing him play on TV. What an intimidating presence he must have been to a pitcher! The only guys I remember in the NL who were as intimidating as the Killer were Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell. Nowadays the only guy I can think of that’s as intimidating is Albert Pujols. Rest in peace, Killer, in that great Field of Dreams up in heaven.

  18. natstowngreg - May 18, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    The Nationals (like the Twins) had a Killebrew jersey in their dugout, in honor of his time with the Senators. He’s also on the Nationals Park ring of honor, behind home plate at the bottom of the club level. This area is reserved for the names of Senators, Homestead Grays, and Expos players in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    He played in the first games I ever saw live — in Cleveland, 1963. It was a double-header; he didn’t hit a homer or anything, but he was impressive nonetheless.

  19. orange54 - May 18, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    As a child, I grew up as Harmon Killebrew being my hero, I missed getting to meet him at a card show once , my only opportunity in life as an adult. I always will regret that, but the memories live on

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