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Hometown Hero: Harmon Killebrew

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Harmon Killebrew
Harmon Killebrew
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Although I left Idaho as a baby, my grandparents stayed. I visited them. They showered me with stories, affection, and music from my grandfather’s phonograph. Although they lived in Idaho, they had adventures around the world. They especially loved Scotland, where Jim’s hometown hero was born. My grandmother’s favorite place was Loch Ness.

Hometown Hero

When looking for a hometown hero, I expanded my search to a stone’s throw away from my hometown. With great enthusiasm, I crown my hometown hero Harmon Killebrew! Let’s talk about him.

His Grandfather

His grandfather, Culver Killebrew, was a blacksmith in the Union Army. His strength was legendary. He routinely won wrestling matches. He could stand flat-footed and jump over a horse.

His Career

  • From 1954 to 1975, Harmon Killebrew played 22 seasons in the Majors. In the early years he played third base, then he played in the outfield, and he finished his career at first base.
  • He was frequently named an All-Star, and he played in 11 All-Star games. In 1965, five of his teammates joined him in the All-Star game. In 1965 he played in the World Series.
  • In 1969 he won Most Valuable Player and his team made the post-season. In 1984 he was voted into the Hall-of-Fame.

By the Numbers

  • He ranks twelfth in career homeruns with 573. He had the season record for homeruns in 1963, 1964, 1967, and 1969. In eleven seasons, he ranked in the top ten for OPS+.
  • In 1962 his homerun was the first to clear the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. He hit the longest measured homeruns at Metropolitan Stadium (520 feet, stadium is now the site of Mall of America) and Memorial Stadium in Baltimore (471 feet).
  • In 1969, he walked 145 times. Even Paul Goldschmidt, renowned for his plate discipline, has not walked more than 118 times in a season.
  • In 1974, the twins retired his uniform number. It was 3.

He Was Nice and Humble

  • He appeared in 2,435 games during his career and he never was ejected. Former Twins teammate Tony Oliva said, "I tell everybody he's too nice to be a baseball player. He's a gentleman."
  • "I am truly saddened by the loss of Harmon Killebrew, one of the great human beings I have ever known," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "All of baseball has lost a true gentleman who represented the Minnesota Twins with class and grace for decades. Harmon was as tough and feared a competitor on the field as the game has ever seen, while off the field he touched everyone he encountered with his sensitive and humble nature. He was not only a Hall of Fame player, but a Hall of Fame person."

All-Idaho Team

I wondered, “Could I construct an all-Idaho team?” I looked at all players in the Majors – active, retired, and deceased. Baseball Almanac lists 30 MLB players born in Idaho. It was barely enough because 20 were pitchers. It must be that eating potatoes makes strong arms! I expanded my list by one honorable mention, Arthur Murphy. He played first base in AA. He was active in politics, so I would make him an ally to support building a new stadium for the all-Idaho team.

Here is my all-Idaho team:

  • Catcher: Bill Salkeld (career total of 8.8 offensive WAR and 1.0 defensive WAR over 6 years), and backup catcher Skipper Roberts.
  • First: Kent Hadley. At age 13, he wrote “If I get to be batboy I would consider it one of the greatest thrills a boy my age could have.” He got the job! When he graduated from high school he wrote his goals, including “reach the major leagues, ” and “travel many oceans and seas.” He did both! After his 3 seasons in the Majors, he played six seasons in Japan.
  • Second: Hal Luby. It was eight years between his first year in the Majors (1936) and the year he exceeded rookie status (1944).
  • Third : Vance Law. I designate him as the player-manager for the all-Idaho team because he is currently active in coaching.
  • Shortstop: Pep Goodwin. His name reminds me of Archie Goodwin of the Nero Wolfe fame. Did Archie Goodwin ever play shortstop?
  • Outfield: Harmon Killebrew, Chris Lantham, Robert Martyn.
  • Utility Player: Joe Mather.
  • Closer: Ralph Erickson is my closer because he lived to be 100 – an exceptional way to close out a well-lived life!
  • Two young pitchers. Josh Osich had an excellent rookie season with an ERA of 2.2, striking out 27 batters in 28.2 innings pitched. James Hoyt had a solid rookie season with an ERA of 4.5, striking out 28 batters in 22 innings.
  • Remaining All-Idaho Pitchers(active years in majors): Vern Law(18), Jason Schmidt(15), Larry Jackson(14), Ken Dayley(10), Mike Garmon(10), Matt Lindstrom(10 and still active player), Clay Mortenson(8 and still active player), Ken Schrom(8), Nick Hagadone(6 and still active player), and Stephen Fife(5 and still active player).

My All-Idaho team would be great to cheer for, even if they did not make the post-season!