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Harmon Killebrew

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Harmon Clayton Killebrew

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1984

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[edit] Biographical Information

"If Harmon Killebrew isn't this league's #1 player, I've never seen one. He's one of the greatest of all time." - Reggie Jackson, 1969

Harmon Killebrew was baseball's most prolific slugger of the 1960s, clubbing 393 home runs during the decade. When he retired after a 22-year career his 573 round-trippers trailed only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson on the all-time list. "Killer" placed in the top five in AL MVP voting six times and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility in 1984, despite being regarded by some as a one-dimensional player.

Born and raised in Idaho, Killebrew played baseball, football, and basketball at Payette High School. He planned to attend the University of Oregon, where he was offered a scholarship, until Washington Senators scout Ossie Bluege signed him to a $30,000 contract in 1954. He made his big league debut on June 23rd of that year, and as a bonus baby, he was required to remain on the Senators' roster for two full seasons. He played sparingly during that time, seeing action at second and third base and hitting 8 homers. Midway through the 1956 campaign, he was sent down to the minors. The next year, with the Chattanooga Lookouts, he hit 27 homers and drove in 101 runs, leading the Southern Association in both categories.

Killebrew in 1962

Killebrew spent most of 1958 in the minors, but after Eddie Yost was traded away after the season, he became Washington's regular third baseman in 1959. He immediately made a splash, hitting 42 home runs to tie Rocky Colavito for the American League lead. He split 1960 between third and first, logging slightly more at first base, raising his batting average by 34 points but slumping some in homers and RBIs. The Senators became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, Killebrew ended up playing twice as much first as third. Along the way he smashed 46 homers that summer, tying him with Jim Gentile but far behind the rampaging Roger Maris' 61 and Mickey Mantle's 54 in that expansion fueled year. In 1962, he moved full time to left - the first of three straight years in the OF - yet still paced the AL with 48 homers and 142 RBI The 48 dingers set the major league record for most home runs by a batter who failed to hit .250 (.243). The following September 21st, in 1963, he hit four homers in a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, and he again led the AL in homers while setting the major league record for most home runs (45) by a batter who had fewer than 100 RBI (96). In 1964, he paced the circuit with 49 homers, his third straight summer leading the AL in that category, while stroking only 11 doubles - the fewest doubles of any major leaguer hitting over 40 home runs in one season. He dropped to 25 homers in 1965, but the Twins won the American League pennant that year. He hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series, but Minnesota fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

Killebrew tied Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski for the American League lead in home runs in 1967 with a robust 44, but struggled with injuries in 1968, hitting just .210 with 17 round trippers. However, he bounced back in grand fashion the next summer, 1969, leading the league with 49 homers and 140 RBI to win the 1969 American League Most Valuable Player Award. His whopping 145 walks topped the AL, the the highest total of the four times he led the junior circuit. The Twins made the postseason that year and the next as American League West champions, falling to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS in both seasons. He led the AL in runs batted in for a third and final time in 1971. His numbers declined in the next three years, and he was released by the Twins after the 1974 season.

Killebrew signed with the Kansas City Royals for $125,000 prior to the 1975 season. Primarily seeing action as the team's designated hitter, he managed only 14 home runs while hitting just .199 and was released at the end of the year. At the time of his retirement, he was fifth on the all-time home run list.

As of 2011, Killebrew stood 11th on the all-time home run list. Along with Lou Gehrig, he hit 49 home runs in a season twice but was never able to hit 50 in a single season. His eight total +40 seasons is 2nd only to Babe Ruth. The seat that he hit with the longest home run at Metropolitan Stadium is suspended from the roof of the Mall of America, on the former site of Met Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Following his playing days, Killebrew was a television broadcaster for the Twins from 1976 to 1978 and again from 1984 to 1988, and with the California Angels in the early to mid-90s.

Killebrew was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 10, 1984 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Playing through the heart of the second dead-ball era depressed his career batting average to .256, but his exceptional home run production, prolific RBI's out of so few base hits, and copious walks helped him into the Hall. A high lifetime Adjusted OPS of 143 puts him in good company there. His #3 is also retired by the Twins.

Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in late December 2010, and underwent treatments at the nearby Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ where he lived. On May 13, 2011, he issued a short statement stating that his fight against the disease was coming to an end and that there was no hope for recovery. He died four days later, at the age of 74.

Although some claim Killebrew was the model for the Major League Baseball logo, says: "No one player has ever been identified as the model of the 1969 Major League Baseball batter logo."

His son Cam Killebrew played in the minor leagues for three seasons. His grandson, Grant Hockin was a second-round selection in the 2014 amateur draft.

[edit] Notable Achievements

1955 Topps
  • 11-time AL All-Star (1959, 1961 & 1963-1971)
  • AL MVP (1969)
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1969)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1963)
  • 6-time AL Home Runs Leader (1959, 1962-1964, 1967 & 1969)
  • 3-time AL RBI Leader (1962, 1969 & 1971)
  • 4-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1966, 1967, 1969 & 1971)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1959-1967 & 1969-1972)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 10 (1959-1964, 1966, 1967, 1969 & 1970)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1959, 1961-1964, 1967, 1969 & 1970)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 9 (1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967 & 1969-1971)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1967 & 1969)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1984

1968 1969 1970
Denny McLain Harmon Killebrew Boog Powell

[edit] Trivia

Most home runs 1960s - 393

[edit] Further Reading

  • Wayne J. Anderson: Harmon Killebrew: Baseball's Superstar, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, UT, 1971.
  • Steve Aschburger: Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2012. ISBN 1600787029
  • Charlie Beattie: "The Legacy of Twins Legends: Killebrew, Carew, Puckett, and Mauer", in Daniel R. Leavitt, ed.: Short but Wondrous Summers: Baseball in the North Star State, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 42, 2012, pp. 88-92.
  • Harmon Killebrew (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, February 1972, pp. 77-78. [1]
  • Fay Vincent: "Harmon Killebrew", in We Would Have Played For Nothing, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2008, pp. 198-228.
  • Joseph Wancho: "Harmon Killebrew", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: A Pennant for the Twin Cities: the 1965 Minnesota Twins, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 119-125. ISBN 978-1-943816-09-5
  • Gregory H. Wolf: "Killebrew Belts Two Homers, Including Game-Winner in Eighth Inning. May 12, 1965: Minnesota Twins 4, Los Angeles Angels 3 at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: A Pennant for the Twin Cities: the 1965 Minnesota Twins, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 103-104. ISBN 978-1-943816-09-5
  • Gregory H. Wolf: "The Killer Clouts Walk-Off Two-Run Round-Tripper. July 11, 1965: Minnesota Twins 6, New York Yankees 5 at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: A Pennant for the Twin Cities: the 1965 Minnesota Twins, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 143-145. ISBN 978-1-943816-09-5

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