Saturday, May 21, 2011

Harmon Killebrew

A friend, whose discernment I respect, posted to me on Facebook: "Are you going to have anything about Harmon Killebrew?" I noted the news of his death several days ago, and mentally doffed my hat. I knew he was a great baseball player, one of the best power hitters of all time. Unfortunately for my appreciation of him, the acme of his career happened at a time when I wasn't paying much attention to baseball. I first became aware of him when the Twins won the AL in 1965, when I was a freshman in college, and went on to play the Dodgers in the World Series. To the extent I took any rooting interest, I was for the Twins, following my default of rooting for the underdog. They lost. After that, Killebrew dropped off my radar.

Marian's query made me do some research. I learned here that, along with being a great player, he was a good guy; a salt-of-the-earth sort. Taking the obligatory look at his stats, I saw that he began his major league career in 1954, when I was eight years old and in third grade. This was the first year that I took any notice of baseball; we had just returned from three years in England. I have mostly vague memories of the '54 Cleveland Indians versus New York Giants series, which I followed without any rooting interest. My only clear memory is of the great catch in game 1 by Willie Mays. At that time, Killebrew was a rookie with the Washington Senators, the perennial butt of the joke: "Who is Washington? First in war, first in peace, last in the American League." He stayed with Washington (this was when the reserve clause reigned supreme) through their move west to the Twin Cities, and was still there, as I've noted, when I started college. His best year was 1969, which straddled my second and third years of law school, and he hung up his spikes in 1975, after 21 years in the majors. Farewell to a great player and a good man.