“Killebrew can knock the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone.”
— Paul Richards, Baltimore Orioles manager, 1959.
Harmon Clayton Killebrew (June 29, 1936 – May 17, 2011) nicknamed “Killer” and “Hammerin’ Harmon”, was an American professional baseball first baseman, third baseman, and left fielder. During his 22-year career in Major League Baseball, he played for the Washington Senators who later became the Minnesota Twins, and for the final season of his career, the Kansas City Royals. When he retired, he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs and was the AL career leader in home runs by a right-handed batter (since broken by Alex Rodriguez). He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Killebrew was a stocky 5’11” tall, 213-pound hitter with a compact swing that generated tremendous power. He became one of the AL’s most feared power hitters of the 1960s, hitting 40 home runs in a season eight times. In 1965, he played in the World Series with the Minnesota Twins, who lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. His finest season was 1969, when he hit 49 home runs, recorded 140 RBI, and won the AL MVP award. Killebrew led the league six times in home runs and three times in RBIs, and was named to eleven All-Star teams.
With quick hands and exceptional upper-body strength, Killebrew was known not just for the frequency of his home runs but also for their distance. He hit the longest measured home runs at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, 520 ft (160 m), and Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, 471 ft (144 m), and was the first of just four batters to hit a baseball over the left field roof at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. Despite his nicknames and his powerful style of play, Killebrew was considered by his colleagues to be a quiet, kind man. Asked once what hobbies he had, Killebrew replied, “Just washing the dishes, I guess.”
After retiring from baseball, Killebrew became a television broadcaster for several baseball teams from 1976 to 1988, and also served as a hitting instructor for the Oakland Athletics. Despite his nicknames and style of play, Killebrew was considered by his colleagues to be a quiet, kind man who never smoked or drank. He was once asked in an interview what hobbies he had, to which he replied, “Just washing the dishes, I guess,” In his career, Killebrew hit 573 home runs, 1,584 RBIs, 1,559 walks, and he easily holds the all-time home run record among players born in the state of Idaho with 573; Vance Law is second with 71. He also finished with the record of having the most plate appearances (9,831) in his career without a sacrifice hit (since broken by Frank Thomas with 10,074 plate appearances). Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 2010, and died five months later.