Thursday, December 30, 2010
“We’re not raising grass, we’re raising boys.”
That is what Harmon Killebrew reports that his father told his mother when she scolded him for playing ball with his sons as they tore up the back yard sod. What a great life lesson. I cherish those moments I played ball with my kids and now grandkids.
I’m sad to read that Harmon has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I just want to wish him the best. He seems to have treated this setback with a great attitude, saying “I have begun preparing for the most difficult battle of my life,” and “I anticipate a full recovery.”
Killebrew was always known as a soft spoken man that let his bat do his talking for him. He hit 573 home runs, most of them during the pitching rich 1960’s. He holds the distinction of having hit the most homers by a right handed batter in the American League. That swing of his was aggressive and dangerous. Look at the photo above. That is one sweet short stroke. Something not said often of right handed hitters.
He was listed at 5' 11" in height, but few believed he was over 5’ 9”. Take a look at him as he and Sandy shake hands before a game in the 1965 World Series. Koufax has a good 6-7 inches on him. But many a pitcher feared the “Killer” regardless of his height, more than any power hitter in the game.
One of his teammates, Ossie Bluege put it best when he said,"He hit line drives that put the opposition in jeopardy and I don't mean infielders. I mean outfielders." And former Oriole manager Paul Richards said, “Killebrew can knock the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone.”
What few would argue about was Killebrew’s demeanor. Known as a true gentleman and honest competitior. Everyone associated with the game had the utmost respect for him. In his last season, Killebrew was a DH for the Kansas City Royals. One evening he jogged into second base after slugging a double. Umpire Ron Luciano congratulated him on his feat and as Harmon leaned towards him and asked him to repeat what he said because he couldn’t hear him, the shortstop tagged him out a few feet from the bag. An embarassed Killebrew told Luciano that he needed to pay half of the fine he was going to get when he returned to the dugout to face manager Whitey Herzog’s wrath. Luciano told him he was on his own.
Well, this time he's not on his own. As one of the most beloved sports figures in Minnesota and most respected living Hall of Famers, many a prayer will be said on Harmon Killebrew's behalf. Get well Mr. Killebrew, we're all pulling for you.