Who Is Harmon "Killer" Killebrew?

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | 5/14/2011 05:32:00 AM | , , , , , | 0 comments »

If you are a baseball fan, you probably know the name Harmon Killebrew. Just in case there are fans that aren't familiar with this incredible man, here is a little bit of information about one of the all-time greats. This Hall of Famer and legendary slugger, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer late last year, has decided to enter hospice care. Sad news.

Harmon Clayton Killebrew is a former Major League Baseball  player who played for the Washington Senators (1954-1960), Minnesota Twins (1961-1974) and Kansas City Royals (1975). 

Killebrew was nicknamed "Killer" because of his quick hands and power bat. He hit the longest measured home runs at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium and Baltimore's Memorial Stadium and was the first of only four batters to hit a baseball over the left field roof at the old Tiger Stadium.

Killebrew hit an astounding 573 home runs in his career. Over his 22-year career, he tied or led the league in home runs six times, belting 40 or more on eight occasions (tied for second to Babe Ruth) and knocked in 100 or more runs nine times.

Harmon was a thirteen time All-Star, the 1969 AL MVP and won the 1972 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. Killebrew was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 and his #3 jersey was retired by the Minnesota Twins.
Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame Website

This is a man that loved baseball and has remained connected to baseball since his retirement.

In 1998, Harmon and his wife Nita started "The Harmon Killebrew Foundation"with a vision to "make a positive impact in local and national communities promoting the “Goodness of Sports.” 
Killebrew also remained tied to the Washington, DC area.  He was involved with the up and coming Loudoun Hounds, an independent baseball organization in Reston, Virginia, as a corporate advisor.  

Harmon was in town in September, 2011 for the unveiling of the team name, colors and logo and to share a few stories. "The Loudoun Hounds is a fantastic name for this professional baseball team," Harmon Killebrew said. "It is a fun, energetic name and it connects the team to the region in a very meaningful way."
The Loudoun Hounds released a statement with photos of their friend Harmon Killebrew.

The Washington Nationals installed a "Ring of Honor" in August, 2010 to pay tribute to Hall of Famers with ties to Washington baseball including Washington Senators, Homestead Grays and Montreal Expos. Harmon Killebrew was one of the eighteen names added at Nationals Park.

Killebrew is between [Walter] Johnson and [Heinie] Manush (between the signs for sections 122 and 121 above the PNC Club).

On December 30, 2010, Killebrew released a statement that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was getting treatment at The Mayo Clinic treatment branch in Phoenix near his home. He was very optimistic.

The Very Sad News….

Harmon Killebrew released this Statement on Friday, May 13, 2011:
"It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end. With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure. 
I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides. 
I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends. I thank you for the outpouring of concern, prayers and encouragement that you have shown me. I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with Nita by my side."

Harmon Killebrew pillar at Nationals Park
Photo by Cheryl Nichols on 5/13/2011

The news of Killebrew's plans spread very quickly across Twitter and Facebook.  Thousands of tweets reminisced about the old days and the goodness of the slugger's heart.  It was a sad day for all baseball fans, MLB players, former MLB managersreporters and members of the Twins organization.

Ex-teammates described Killebrew as a class act and the 1969 season was remembered.
Killebrew has been a big influence on Twins' players and his announcement had an impact on them.

"The one thing I'd admired about him since the day I met him is how he treats everybody the same," said catcher Joe Mauer, who met him as an 18-year-old at TwinsFest. "You wouldn't know he's a Hall of Famer when he walks into the room. He's a great guy and I've really learned about him. He's a professional and a great human being."

Mauer added that one of the most indelible marks that Killebrew left on him was simply working on his autograph, as Killebrew always had a fan-first attitude and made sure his name was legible when signing for fans.

"He would always get on me about my autograph," Mauer said with a smile. "He signs autographs all the time and probably has the prettiest autograph in the game. So he always says to make sure they can read it. So he's a great guy, and obviously that's just one thing I've learned from him over the years."

Michael Cuddyer had a similar story, as Killebrew took him aside one time and told him to work on his signature.

"I did a signing with him on Caravan one year and my signature looked pretty bad." Cuddyer said. "He told me, 'If I see this come through the line one more time I'm walking away and leaving, and the only person these people are going to [be] mad at is you because you're the reason I'm going to leave.' From then on I've tried to make it as legible as I can. Every time I sign an autograph, he's in my head, thinking about how it looks."

"I think more than anything guys are just happy to see him and happy to know him," said Scott Baker, who met Killebrew in 2004 while pitching in Double-A. "He means a lot to this organization and he's fun to be around. He's enjoyable to be around and always has a smile on his face. It didn't matter if you just got called up or if you were 15 years in the big leagues. He treated everybody the same. He's just a great man, and I'm very proud to say I had a chance to know him."

Killebrew even made it to Spring Training this year, even after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December. It was special for the players to see Killebrew, especially because they were aware of what he was going through.

"It meant a lot because we knew what he was battling and what was going on with him," center fielder Denard Span said. "For me, I didn't ask him how he was doing, but I wanted to so bad. I didn't want him to think about what was going on. I just wanted him to get his mind off what was going on. So for him to be around us, it lifted him up."

"I know everybody in this clubhouse, the Minnesota Twins and all our families have our thoughts and prayers with him and his family," outfielder Jason Kubel said. "So it's tough news for everybody. He was a great guy and he was always happy to see us and we were always thrilled to see him."

"He just cares about everybody he comes in contact with,'' Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. "I think that's part of what makes this so tough for everybody, is he's so willing to help everybody else, and you feel so helpless, not being able to do anything to give back to him.
The Twins decided to honor Killebrew, though, by hanging up a No. 3 jersey in the dugout and will wear their throwback jerseys at Target Field all year.

"We figured it would be good tribute to pay to him for the rest of the season," Cuddyer said. "I've asked everybody and think everybody has complied that we'll wear these uniforms all season when we're at home."
#3 in the Twins dugout on May 13, 2011
Photo from Twitter

There are plans to celebrate Harmon's 75th Birthday next month on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at Target Field.

You can share your thoughts on Harmon Killebrew here.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Harmon and his family.
I never had the privilege to meet Harman Clayton Killebrew, however, feel like I knew him. Like myself, he grew up in Idaho. There are not very many MLB players from Idaho! Payette, Idaho remembers him fondly.

***Quotes taken from published sources.