Harmon Killebrew, a gentle slugger who put the Minnesota Twins on the map and later served as an effective ambassador for the game of baseball, passed away this morning in a Phoenix hospice after battling esophageal cancer.
He was 74.
Killebrew, signed out of Payette High School in rural Idaho by scout Ossie Bluege, made his Major League Baseball debut with the Washington Senators and then accompanied the team to Minnesota in 1961. Balding and a little pudgy, Killebrew was a prototypical home-run hitter, wowing Met Stadium crowds with his mighty drives. He was the first batter to hit the ball out of Tiger Stadium, and the longest home run he hit at the Met was measured as traveling over 500 feet. When he retired he was fifth on the all-time home-run list, with 573 dingers during his time with the Senators, Twins and a final 1973 season with the Kansas City Royals.
“No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said in a statement. “Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest.”
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