Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew

May 17, 2011

This is a personal salute to a quality human being. It has nothing to do with  music in Baltimore, except, perhaps, for the reverberations of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as Hoyt Wilhelm takes the mound in the bottom of the 7th with Gus Triandos as his battery mate, to propel Paul Richard’s Orioles to another victory. The man who will forever hold the record for the longest home run ever hit at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Harmon Killebrew, died today of esophageal cancer at the age of 74.

I had friends at the shore who were Washington Senators fans, and the games were available on WTOP if you adjusted your rabbit ears just right. The trajectory of their move to Minnesota in 1961, and my migration to Minnesota in 1971, seemed to follow the same arc. I knew the names of Killebrew and Bob Allison, Jim Kaat and Zoilo Versalles. I was surprised to find those same names transplanted 1,300 miles away.

In a world where baseball might be the last remaining thread connecting what was to what is, Harmon Killebrew was a tailor. A feared hall-of-fame hitter, he sits #11 on the all time home run list. Take away chemical hitters Mark McGuire, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, and he rises to #7. In fact, as baseball reflects the progression of society itself, Killebrew may be the last gentleman of the game. He’s been a fixture of the community here in Minnesota ever since his retirement in 1975. He didn’t make big bucks as a player, and his Idaho upbringing didn’t put him in the league of self-marketed athletes, so he lived a modest life as a modest yet well-known Minnesotan. Without exception, the remembrances of Harmon broadcast throughout the day have been only half baseball or less, and instead a series of tributes to a quality human being. As a fan of the game and an admirer of the rarity of quality human beings, Harmon Killebrew’s loss is particularly sad.