Minnesota Twins legend Harmon Killebrew passed away on this day in 2011. Six years later, his legacy continues to live on.
On this day six years ago, one of the greatest Minnesota Twins of all time passed away. Harmon Killebrew was the first superstar in franchise history. He may have also shown brighter than any other Twins stars to come after him. He was known for his powerful swing and quiet, down to earth demeanor.
Killebrew was born on June 29th, 1936 in a small town on the Idaho-Oregon border. He became a professional baseball player after signing a contract with the Washington Senators. He made his Major League Baseball debut just a few days before his eighteenth birthday.
Killebrew would spend all but one year of his career with the organization, and is mostly known for his time after they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. From then on, Killebrew set many franchise records and helped the franchise achieve numerous firsts.
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He left a lasting impression on the Twins organization.
He is the franchise leader in games played, home runs (beating out the next best by 266), runs batted in (beating out second best by nearly 500), total bases and walks. Along with the impressive records, he also is the career leader in strikeouts. He had almost 600 more than the next best (or worst).
He helped the Twins make their first World Series appearance in 1965, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games at the hands of a shutout performance in the final game by Sandy Koufax. It was the first of three playoff appearances for the Twins during Killebrew’s time. The last of them, in 1970, would be the last one until 1987 when the Twins would win the World Series.
Killebrew holds many franchise records and helped the team achieve things they never had before, but he also knew how to wow the crowd. He had the longest home run in Metropolitan Stadium history, measuring 520 feet. It is commemorated at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the site where Metropolitan Stadium was before the mall was built (one of the streets that runs past the mall is named Killebrew Drive).
He also hit the longest home run at Baltimore’s Memorial stadium with a 471 foot shot. He was one of four players to hit the ball over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium. Even though he was quiet and kind, his bat was quite the opposite.
After his playing days.
His number three would be retired by the Twins in 1975 during the only year Killebrew played for a different franchise, the Kansas City Royals. After his retirement, Killebrew was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the fourth ballot. He finished his career with the second most home runs in American League history, behind Babe Ruth. While that has been surpassed, it is still impressive.
In retirement, he did broadcasting for the Twins during a few separate stints, along with a year of broadcasting for the California Angels. He spent some time as an instructor in the Oakland Athletics organization in the late 1980s.
His passing and his legacy.
In December of 2010, Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Killebrew later went into hospice care and past away on May 17th, 2011. He was honored by both the Twins and Washington Nationals when the news broke of his passing, and baseball lost one of its greatest people.
Killebrew will forever be remembered by Twins fans. He still is remembered, more than 40 years after his last game in the majors. He had the type of talent people talk about for generations, something no other Twins player has had, besides Kirby Puckett. Killebrew’s moonshots and longevity, along with his help in establishing professional baseball in Minnesota, will live on in baseball lore.
He was one of the greats of the game, and will be remembered as such. He is a legend of the game, and that will never be forgotten. Twins baseball would not have been the same without The Killer. He left his imprint on the franchise for generations to come.