This week the upper Midwest and true baseball fans everywhere have been mourning the loss of baseball great Harmon Killebrew… one of the greatest home run hitters ever. In my way of figuring things, number 4 on the all-time list.
Golden Era Home Run Leaders (500 or more)
Hank Aaron 755
Willie Mays 660
Frank Robinson 586
Harmon Killebrew 573
Minnesotans were well aware that Killebrew had just been moved into hospice care, and so the news did not come as a surprise to us. I heard about Killebrew’s death in an email from my friend Jerry, which seems appropriate because Jerry is as great a baseball fan and mind as anyone I have ever known.
I have spent the week listening and reading tributes to Killebrew… and talking to friends who grew up in Minnesota watching him play.
Those who are not sports fans quite often criticize those of us who are for what they perceive as a fundamental shallowness on our part… making such a big deal out of something that really does not matter. Besides being bewildered by such people, I have always felt sorry for them. Like all who are truly ignorant, they do not really know what they do not know.
Of course it can be said that we make too much of sports and sports heroes at times. But in the case of Harmon Killebrew, we do not. By all accounts he was that great rarity, a great man who really was great.
The last time I saw Harmon Killebrew was at the Minnesota History Center at the opening night of the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit. My friend Dave, who is a member, took me with him. Killebrew was there, along with Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Tony Oliva, and a host of Twins.
We were not allowed to ask for autographs, which was fine, but we could have our pictures taken with the players. I had mine taken with Sandberg. I did not have mine taken with Killebrew, but I ened up for awhile being the unofficial photographer for those who were having theirs taken with him. A number of people gave me their cameras to snap pictures for them. I hope I did a good job.
It was not that I did not want my picture taken with Killebrew. It was only that I had meet him before and I was having so much fun watching those older than me meeting and talking with him. It is fun to see a 6o year-old woman become an excited girl of 12 again… a 65 year-old man become a beaming little leaguer again as he meets and greets his childhood hero.
Baseball as a game has been diminished this week. We have all grown older.
requiescat in pace Harmon Killebrew.