Killebrew left a bigger legacy than just smacking homers

BILL MARTIN

While I wasn’t any particular Minnesota Twins fan when I was a kid (Read: St. Louis Cardinals), Harmon Killebrew was just one of those guys that was easy to admire and like.

While not a World Series regular, the Twins had some copious talent in Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bert Blyleven and Rod Carew.

Killebrew, Blyleven and Carew are in the Hall of Fame.

Killebrew just passed away last week and I found it interesting that most of the testimonials of this great power hitter, were more about the makeup of the man, than his prodigious home run production.

Let me add one more hossana to the list.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Killebrew at the All-Star game in Houston when it was held there in 2004.

Now as I have opined before in this space, that particular game is very special to me, not because it was my first major league all-star game, but because after approximately 35 years of taking my glove to baseball games (and being ridiculed unmercifully for doing so), I finally caught a foul ball.


Despite the fact that Harmon Killebrew smacked 573 home runs, he is best remembered for the kind of man he was. Despite the fact that Harmon Killebrew smacked 573 home runs, he is best remembered for the kind of man he was. There was also another moment from that evening that will always be special to me. Hours before the game, I met Killebrew in the hotel where all the festivities were taking place.

Standing by himself over next to a counter, I carefully approached him and introduced myself.

I have found that it is best to tread lightly when meeting a “celebrity”, because like Forrest Gump, you never know what your going to get.

I have been disappointed on several occasions by meeting someone I’ve admired (Read: Bill Walton).

However in this case, Killebrew couldn’t have been nicer. He shook my hand firmly as he introduced himself, as if I didn’t know who he was.

I was surprised at how short he was. On television, the rawboned country boy from Payette, Idaho (where he was also laid to rest), looked like Paul Bunyan with a Louisville axe.

His shoulders were still broad, his forearms still massive. His smile was engaging.

We talked for about 10 minutes and by the time we were through, it was if we had known each other our whole lives.

Apparently, I was not alone in that feeling, according to the dozens of accounts that I have read. He questioned me, more than I questioned him.

It struck me that here’s this guy where it would be so easy to praise him for the things he did in his chosen sport, but scribes choose to concentrate on the man himself.

I compare all professional athletes and their behavior around fans to Nolan Ryan, who was the best by far. Killebrew passed that test with flying colors.

Professional athletes of today, take notice.

The 5ive

Here are the five most gentlemanly college mascots:
1. Whittier Poets.
2. St. Joseph Monks
3. Penn Quakers
4. Whitman Missionaries
(And finally) 5. Centenary
Gentlemen.






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2011-05-26 digital edition



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