Sam

Harmon Killebrew: Gentleman farmer

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm


One of the icons of my childhood, Harmon Killebrew, died yesterday. Along with Frank Robinson, Frank Howard, Mickey Mantle et. al Killebrew was one of the preeminent sluggers of the game in the 1960s and early 1970s. Year in year out his name was near the top of the list of American league HR leaders and only Babe Ruth had more consecutive 40 hr seasons than Killebrew (eight).

Growing up in the Bay Area I had limited opportunity to see Killebrew play. I probably went to a few A’s – Twins game as a kid but I don’t really remember. I was after all a Giants fan. However, several years after he retired, Killebrew became the color man on the A’s telecasts. Killebrew was a pleasure to listen to on the A’s broadcasts. He had a mellifluous voice without ever so much as a hint of anger or indignation –at a blown call or a mental mistake by a player on the field. As a player Killebrew shunned wrist bands and batting gloves when they became popular in the late 1960s and stepped into the batters box with the austerity of a monk. So as a broadcaster with the A’s did he refuse to clutter pauses with meaningless statistics or incessant chatter but simply offered his analysis of play when necessary.

After several years of broadcasting A’s games Killebrew retired to his farm in Oregon. Somehow the image of Killebrew as gentleman farmer seemed to fit. Harmon Killebrew was a minimalist, and this came across in everything he did, his tape measure home runs and 9 kids the exceptions.

When I read this morning of Killebrew’s death, the first thing that came to mind is how different the game is now. Nowadays a player of Killebrew’s stature is inevitably involved in contract disputes, free agency, the occasional paternity suit, or, as is more likely, steroid use.

Soft spoken sluggers like Harmon Killebrew belonged to another, better era.

Thanks for the wonderful memories Harmon. You will be missed.

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