WE'LL MISS YOU, HARMON KILLEBREW
We're going to miss you, Harmon Clayton Killebrew. I know I am. Today he announced that was forgoing further treatment for his esophageal cancer. He announced he had the disease in December of 2010 and began treatment then, but doctors have told him there is no hope for recovery. For the last ten years or so he has been an advocate for hospice care, and that is the route he has now chosen. He is in the company of his family and close friends for his final days.
I have been a Harmon Killebrew fan for a long time, probably since about 1967. It was at about that time I began watching the Major League Baseball "Game Of The Week", and it seems the Minnesota Twins were on a good deal of the time. I got to where I became a Twins fan. They had some great players back then, including the likes of Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Ted Uhlaender, Jim Kaat to name a few. My favorite was Killebrew, the big Twins first baseman who hit so many prodigious home runs, seemingly as if it was nothing.
In my car, I have a sort of shrine in my glove compartment. In it, you would find a small, stuffed toy tiger, as the Tigers are the mascot of my high school. There is a "God's eye" my daughter Kelly made from plastic straws and yarn when she was a preschooler. A couple of rounded granite river stones, about the size of marbles, from one of my favorite streams.
And, encased in acrylic, a 1968 Topps Harmon Killebrew baseball card, like the one pictured above. In fact, one that I got out of a pack of Topps cards that summer. Finding that card in that pack is one of my favorite memories, and the best part of it was examining the card closely and finding out that Harmon Killebrew's birthday was also mine! The fact that he was born and raised only about 125 miles from where I lived was also pretty exciting.
Killebrew began his career in 1954 with the Washington Senators, and continued with that team when they moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season and became the Twins. By 1968, Harmon was already 31 years old and he had led the American League in home runs five times and he already had 380 homers in total. He would go on to hit 573 for his career, and with that number he holds down 11th place on the all-time list. Perhaps his most spectacular year was 1969, when he hit 49 home runs and drove in 140. His decline as a player started in 1972; he played two more years with the Twins before playing his final season with the Kansas City Royals in 1975 at age 39. His long and successful career is a testament to his hard work and his dedication to the game of baseball
You can call it hero worship if you like, and I freely admit, that is exactly what it is: Harmon Killebrew always has been, and always will be one of my heroes.
Let's hope his final days go smoothly and without pain, and that he is able to find peace and comfort.