Originally posted on Helmet and Pads Required  |  Last updated 5/17/11
Today is a moment that will always be part of sports history. There is nothing I can say that would be more worthy than the wise words of the Major League Hall of Famer, himself, Harmon Killebrew. “Life is precious and time is a key element. Let’s make every moment count and help those who have a greater need than our own.” That being said, May 17, 2011 is a day to remember in the world of sports. Harmon Clayton Killebrew, born on June 29, 1936, passed away in his home this morning under the care of hospice at the age of 74. Harmon Killebrew’s biography is so full of accomplishments; his life so full of joy that I can’t begin to give his legacy it’s due. Killebrew was a major league baseball player that was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 after his fourth year of eligibility, as we often see. In 1965, Leo Durocher said in the New York Time’s, “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.” Killebrew didn’t save anything for the next day; he lived in the moment and did his best when the opportunity presented itself. Living a life that was full and one made of dreams. He lived a career on the diamond that span over two decades and built a family and home. Killebrew is survived by his second wife, Nita, and nine children from two marriages. Nicknamed “Killer” and “Hammerin’ Harmon”, the legend was one of many who have dreamt of hitting a baseball for a living. Killebrew saw one out of few that made it to the big time. Killebrew, one of the most prominent names in the game’s long history. He was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a rare disease that attacked the humble legend quickly. Once the diagnosis was made public in December 2010, he began treatment in his adopted home state of Arizona. Last Friday, May 15, 2011, Killebrew went under the care of hospice to ensure that his last days were comfortable in his home. The MLB press release issued a statement quoting Killebrew saying, “I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors’ expectation of cure.” Killebrew lived a full like and career, a nomad defensive player that played first baseman, third baseman, as well as left fielder. He is one of three players to have hit at least 100 home runs at each all of three positions. Killebrew is generally recognized as the first player to admire the parabolic trajectories of self-launched baseballs. Killebrew played for the, Washington Senators, Kansas City Royals and the Minnesota Twins. He was second only to the great Babe Ruth in American League home runs and retired as the American League career leader in home runs by a right-handed batter. Killebrew’s record has since been broken by Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees in 2009. The Killer was known for a swing that generated tremendous power and was as one of the league’s most feared power hitters of the 1960s, racking up 40 homers in a season, eight times during an era in which pitching was dominant. The baseball legend that was known for quick hands and amazing upper-body strength didn’t only have the ability to break a bat with his powerful hits; he could break distance records, as well. He hit the longest measured home runs at the Minnesota Metropolitan Stadium and the Baltimore Memorial Stadium. The long distance slugger was the first of just four batters to hit a baseball over the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium. His career doesn’t stop there. Killebrew’s record boasts a 1,584 career RBIs rank in a tie for 36th place all-time and led the league in RBIs three times, establishing his personal high, 140, in 1969, when he won the MVP. He placed in the top five in MVP balloting in five other years. Killer was revered in Minneapolis and St. Paul. One can drive down the street near the Mall of America that is named Killebrew Drive, in the legend’s honor. The street is built on the site of the Metropolitan Stadium where the Twins played. Additionally, His No. 3 was the first uniform number to be retired by the Twins in 1974, the year the team released Killebrew at age 38. His congeniality and unblemished personal resume only reinforced the popularity produced by his on-field achievements. He appeared in 2,435 games during his career and was never ejected from a game. When his cancer was announced in 2010, former Twins teammate, Tony Oliva said, “I tell everybody he’s too nice to be a baseball player. He’s a gentleman.” A man that made in history in a sport he loved definitely stood out during his time, and for years to come. Killebrew was a man with an easy going, humble persona, however, he was known to have been the first player in MLB to delay his race declaring his homerun, in order to monitor, and perhaps admire what his power could do with a ball and bat. Admiring one’s accomplishments is truly valuing the talents you have been afforded. In later years, the likes of baseball greats such as Reggie Jackson, Dave Parker, Rickey Henderson and Barry Bonds boasted launches greater than those once launched by Killebrew, but all of the great men was mimicking the great slugger from the days when people packed the stands, popcorn and peanuts in hand, and set at awe at launches made me a rarity such as Killebrew. Today, Twins president Dave St. Peter said, “No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew,”. “Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest.” According to the MLB press release, Killebrew is the fifth Hall of Fame inductee to pass away, in a little over a year. The passing of Robin Roberts last May has been followed by the deaths of Sparky Anderson, Bob Feller, and Duke Snider. Please remember these great men, as well as the all of the people who have left loved ones behind. In the meantime, enjoy your life to the fullest. As Yogi Berra would say, It ain’t over till it’s over.” - Charlene May
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