Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harmon Killebrew: 1936-2011

Harmon Killebrew, the Hall-of-Fame slugger who broke in with the Washington Senators as an 18-year-old prodigy, died today after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 74.

Though Killebrew hit 465 of his 573 career home runs with the Twins and became one of Minnesota's most-famous athletes, he was a Senator first, playing in the District from 1954-1960 before the franchise relocated.

The Nationals included Killebrew last summer as one of the charter members of their Ring of Honor at Nationals Park, joining other Senators, Grays and Expos greats.

Upon learning he was ending his cancer treatment and entering hospice treatment at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., over the weekend, the Nationals hung a No. 3 Killebrew jersey in their dugout.

"For baseball fans and Washingtonians, there was a distinct sadness felt today with the passing of Harmon Killebrew," Nationals managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement. "Our family and the Nationals organization were honored to host Harmon for a game last season at Nationals Park. We shall long treasure that evening and the gentlemanly impression left by Harmon.

"A Hall of Fame inductee in 1984, Harmon's contributions to the game of baseball are bountiful and lasting. While Harmon was best known for his days with the Minnesota Twins, our organization takes great pride in baseball's storied history in D.C., and Harmon plays a large role in that legacy. I will always remember his first 84 big league home runs came while playing for the Senators from 1954-60.

"It is the fond memories of Harmon and his days with Senators that added fuel to Washington's desire to reclaim a Major League franchise. For this, Washingtonians will be forever grateful."


NatinBeantown said...

That's a moving statement from Mr. Lerner. I wish we (the DC fanbase) heard more from him time to time.

Unkyd said...

Mr. Lerner's pretty smart. I doubt if there's much he could say, to appease the less patient among us. And the rest of us don't need forced platitudes to know he's on the right track.

Stay the course, Boss! We're right here with you!

Unkyd said...

How rude, of me!!!

Condolences, to his loved ones. And fond, if fuzzy memories have I, of seeing The Killer, on the old 19" B&W.....with the handle on top.

SonnyG10 said...

I remember Harmon when he first came up with the Senators and what a great player he was. It took him a couple of years to stick in the ML as I recall, and I remember the announcers talking about how he needed to improve his fielding and that was the reason he got sent back to the minors before he was up for good. It was thrilling for me to see him play because the Senators were so bad in those days and it was nice to have a quality player on the team for a change.

dj in Fl. said...

I almost saw a Killebrew hit one out at Griffith Stadium. I was a kid in the bleachers surronded by folks in short sleeve white shirts, some with ties on in the broiling sun. He hit one to the wall in front of the bleachers where we were.
I think that was when the addiction started Doc.

sjm308 said...

Also saw Killebrew at Griffith Stadium. Can someone with a better grasp of history help me out. I think I remember that we could not send him to the minors in his first season. He was young and raw but I think there was some sort of rule that said we had to keep him with the big club.

My son got me his Topps rookie card one christmas and when I retired my work buddies got me an autographed picture of HK as a Senator. They are proudly framed in my "baseball room"

Nice job by the Lerners and he was a true gentleman.

Anonymous said...

I believe Killebrew was a "bonus baby" which during the late 1940s through most of the 1950s if a club signed a young player to a contract above a certain amount the player had to be kept on the major league roster for a period of time--two years, I believe.

Other bonus babies included Al Kaline and Sandy Koufax were two others.

Anonymous said...

Killebrew hit an upper deck shot at DC Stadium in 1967. I got the ball, and he signed it for me after the game. A great memory. One of the great gentlemen in baseball history. May he rest in peace.

Andrew said...

rmoore446, I think you got that exactly right as it pertained to the old "bonus baby" rule.

Anonymous said...

Good ol' Charmin' Harmon Killebrew ...

For old Nats fans fantasy teams almost always comprised both Killebrew and Howard together in a kind of DC murder's row. Too bad it never happened ... terrible owners that predate Danny Snyder acting as team GM.

Great statement by Ted Lerner and so very true.

PWS said...

It was Spring 1954 and Harmon Killebrew attended the opening day festivities for the Annandale Little League. I was 11 and played third base for one of the teams in the league. He signed autographs for everyone and I was ecstatic when he signed my glove. It wasn't many weeks later when the autograph had faded away but the glove always remained special to me as was my fondness for Harmon Killebrew. He wasn't that much older than many of the youngsters playing that day but he towered above us and as the gentleman he was he towered above most in his career. His passing brings true sadness.

Jimmy said...

I'll never forget the first time I saw and met Harmon Killebrew. It was his first season (1954)and he was sitting in full uniform, in the stands along the third base line. He had a clip board, with a diagram of the playing field. On the diagram was a line showing where the left field fence was going to be moved in the following season. He was to record how many hit balls went beyond this line and would be home runs. The purpose, Washington was going to start selling beer and they where putting in picnic tables and making it into a beer garden. Beer wasn't going to be sold in the stands, I think that started in 1955 or 1956.

So, naturally being only 12 years old a friend and I were sitting on each side of him for most of the game. He was only 18, years old himself. We had a great time and he was a very nice guy.

Harmon was signed under the old bonus baby rule, which meant if you signed for $25,000, you had to stay in the Majors for two years.

For those of you who don't know they were the WASHINGTON NATIONALS in 1954, and not the Senators!

If Calvin Griffith would not have moved after the 1960, season and with the players he had in the minors ready to mature. We would not have gone without baseball for 33, years. And, we would not be in the Phillies uniform but in our beautiful uniforms, with blue letters trimmed in red.

Please Learners bring our tradition back!!!

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