MLB

Paying Respect to Harmon Killebrew, Midwest Legend

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Paul Charchian who is a long-tenured broadcast personality in the Minneapolis/St. Paul community has joined us to lend his thoughts on local legend Harmon Killebrew.

 

Doing live talk radio means that, from time to time, news breaks during your show.  During those moments, there’s no time to script the perfect response.  You just speak from your heart, and off the top of your head.  Hopefully, you find the words that capture your thoughts, and ideally, strike a chord with your listeners.

On Friday, one such moment occurred in the Twin Cities.  Legendary Minnesota Twin Harmon Killebrew released a statement saying that his esophageal cancer had become untreatable, and he was headed to hospice.  The news was devastating in a way that few outside of Minnesota will understand.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Killebrew might be the most underappreciated player in the history of Major League Baseball, mostly because of geography. He played in the Midwest, the cornfields, flyover country. The modesty of his stardom helped start a belief in the East Coast media bias that still lingers today. 

Plus, he never won a World Series, a crime for which the Hall of Fame committee views charitably as arson or cannibalism.

In the days before SportsCenter’s replays, if you didn’t see it yourself, you couldn’t fully grasp the astounding power of Killebrew’s home runs.  And there were plenty of them, 573 to be exact.  He held the all-time distance record at two different ballparks, Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, the later an absurd 520 feet.  When the Twins opened Target Field last year, they placed a statue of Killebrew outside the stadium, 520 feet from home plate. It’s halfway down the block.

In a moment, I’ll be rattling off some of his stats.  As you read them, imagine the iconic stature Killebrew would have achieved had he played on either coast.

  • He retired second only to Babe Ruth in AL home runs, and the most by a right-hander.
  • His 573 home runs were fifth-most among both leagues.
  • He made the All Star team 11 times.
  • He holds the Washington Senators single-season home run record.
  • He hit 40 home runs in eight different seasons.
  • His 1969 season featured 49 home runs, and 140 RBI, and an MVP award.
  • He hit the most home runs of any player in the 1960s.
  • He finished with 1,584 RBI
  • In 1962, Killebrew and Bob Allison became the first teammates in 72 years to hit grand slams in the same inning.

It took Killebrew four tries to get into the Hall of Fame. Four. Minnesotans are still angry about the snub.

Of course, Killebrew’s power numbers would be more eye-popping today if they hadn’t been diluted by the unforgiveable actions of a decade of juicers who forever eroded the sanctity of the game and the accomplishments of Killebrew and many others.

Despite what others might say, Reggie Jackson considers himself an authority on many things.  But we can agree on one thing… he knows hitting.  Jackson once said, “If Harmon Killebrew isn’t the league’s best player, I’ve never seen one. He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

Killebrew, even for two generations of Twins fans who never saw him play, was adored in the Twin Cities.  Friday’s sports talk radio shows turned into a rolling tribute to Killebrew, with dozens of callers recounting tales of his generosity and kindness. Which means a lot more than the remembrances of this guy at the microphone.

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Paul Charchian is the owner and operator of LeagueSafe.com and the President of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. He is also a long-tenured broadcast personality in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, having appeared most notably on KFAN Radio and Fox Sports Radio while also doing regular hits on TV outlets such as ESPNews. You may contact Paul @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @PaulCharchian