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Reflecting On The Career And Influence Of Harmon Killebrew

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 18, 2011 – 9:37 am

On-field results were far from ideal last year, but the 2010 season will always be one to remember for the Vikings and fans because it was the 50th season in franchise history. Honoring former players was a critical component of the organization’s season-long celebration and that specific effort culminated in a “Celebrating 50 Seasons Gala” in December, an event that saw the franchise unveil its 50 Greatest Players.

The 50th season in Vikings history, including all the work that went into celebrating the franchise’s history, is something I’ll always remember about my time working for the club. The highlight of the season, for me, was the Celebrating 50 Seasons Gala because 46 of the 49 living players from the 50 Greatest list were able to attend and I spent time with all of them.

All of this comes to mind now with the passing of Harmon Killebrew, a Twins legend and Minnesota fan favorite. Diagnosed with esophageal cancer last December, Killebrew, a baseball Hall of Famer and veteran of 22 MLB seasons, battled the disease for 5 months and last week announced he was entering hospice care in Arizona.

“It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end,” Killebrew said in a statement last week. “With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors’ expectation of cure.”

Killebrew passed away in Arizona on Tuesday morning. He was 74.

“Every nice thing you can say about someone is true about Harmon Killebrew,” said longtime Vikings Head Trainer and current Senior Consultant Fred Zamberletti, who has treated countless professional athletes in Minnesota since the 1960s. “I treated him as a patient, and when he came into my office he was very gracious with everyone inside. He treated people with respect and he’s an outstanding representative of Minnesota. Harmon always had a smile on his face.”

Killebrew is legend in Twins lore, having blasted 475 of his 573 career home runs in Minnesota. He’s 11th on baseball’s all-time home run list and ranked 5th until this past decade; no one hit more home runs than Killebrew in the 1960s. Killebrew, the 1969 AL MVP, was loved by fans and teammates and was always present for the Twins franchise following his playing days. He was an annual visitor to Spring Training, a dedicated and generous member of the local community and a great ambassador of baseball. The next time you visit Target Field, notice the bronze statue of Killebrew outside of the facility.

As sports fans, it’s important to appreciate what former players and legends have done for their particular sport and for our local culture. Whether it be tremendous on-field accomplishments, generous charitable efforts off the field or a combination of both, sports stars serve as influential figures in society – good and bad.

Killebrew is more than a sports star, though. He’s a legend and he is truly a positive influence on those who knew him, those who watched him and those who followed him, from his days of hammering home runs at Met Stadium to his excitement in christening Target Field.

The thoughts and prayers of the entire Vikings organization are with the Killebrew family and the Twins organization. What are your memories of Harmon Killebrew? Share them with us in the comments section below this entry.

Click here to learn more about beating esophageal cancer.
Click here to learn more about the Jimmy V Foundation, which is dedicated to funding cancer research.


Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 15 Comments »


15 Responses to “Reflecting On The Career And Influence Of Harmon Killebrew”

  1. By Mike Wobschall on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Here’s a memory from Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com. He wrote this in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column…http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/peter_king/05/15/mmqb/index.html

    My Killebrew memory is a vivid one. I’m 10 years old, living and dying in my living room in Enfield, Conn., on the last weekend of the 1967 baseball season, as the Twins and Red Sox play the two games that will decide the American League pennant, pretty much. Four teams enter the weekend with a chance to win the flag (Boston, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit), all within two wins of each other. Boston needs to sweep and needs help. It’s the weekend of Killebrew, in the middle of the Twins’ lineup, and Carl Yastrzemski, in the middle of Boston’s. Saturday’s game is on TV, Sunday’s on the radio.

    For the weekend (thanks, baseballreference.com, for refreshing my memory of something 43 years old), Killebrew goes walk, double, strikeout, strikeout, two-run homer, walk, single, walk, single. Yaz: single, strikeout, single, three-run homer, single, double, single, single. I’m screaming half the weekend for someone to get Killebrew out. (Probably every 10-year-old in the Twin Cities was doing the same with Yaz.) For the weekend, these two guys come to bat 17 times and reach 14. Incredible. But Killebrew was as respected a player as there was in baseball for his play (the 573 homers) and his unflagging class. He leaves nothing but good feeling in his wake. Here’s hoping he goes peacefully.

  2. By no1vikingsfan on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    I remember those days of Harmon Killebrew when Rod Carew walked in to the picture, we still had Bob Allison and Tony Alivia, man what a team that was, I sure won’t forget those days.

  3. By DRS on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    My condolences to Minnesota and Harmon Killebrew’s family on the passing of a great baseball player, and great person as well. I bet the twins had him now.

  4. By DRS on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Oops. I bet the twins wish they had him now. Sorry missed a word.

  5. By DRS on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Sorry this is off topic but I thought you should know what may be up with the new stadium bill.

    http://www.dailynorseman.com/2011/4/26/2134216/new-vikings-stadium-metrodome

  6. By Frederick Jones on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Harmon Killebrew.

    The year 1969. He had 49 HRs and 140 RBIs which was amazing for those pre-steroid days. He had more RBIs that year then HOF Al Kaline, and multi-All-Star Norm Cash COMBINED. The next year he led in RBIs again and was batting over .300 in August. (unfortunately, he wound up in a late season slump)

  7. By Mike B on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    My condolences to the Twins, MN, and Killebrew’s family. I listened to the games on the radio back in the late 60s and early 70s. Great teams. Wish some stars today would be as humble as Killebrew and others.

  8. By paul on May 18, 2011 | Reply

    Did the Twins retire his number?

  9. By wholesale replica nfl jerseys on May 19, 2011 | Reply

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  10. By NovaScotiaVike on May 19, 2011 | Reply

    What kind of crack are you on, selling jerseys on a page dedicated to the late, great Harmon Killebrew?

  11. By Sue G Vikes 4 Ever on May 19, 2011 | Reply

    RIP Harmon, you were a class act on and off the field. I saw a couple you of times as a young girl and you never dissappointed. My deepest condolescences to the Killebrew family.

  12. By Sue G Vikes 4 Ever on May 19, 2011 | Reply

    I meant I saw you a couple of times….Duh!

  13. By Gubber on May 20, 2011 | Reply

    I’m a huge Vikings and Twins fan from Winnipeg.
    My first memory of professional baseball was the Twins in the old Metropolitan Stadium watching Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and last but certainly not least Harmon Killebrew.
    The Twins were playing a night game against the Red Sox and Jimmy Hall hit three home runs that night. I guess Harmon thought he had to get in on the act. He proceeded to launch a rocket over the center field fence that as was stated in the movie Bull Durham “Went so far it should have had a stewardess on board”.
    What really impressed me about Harmon was the way he conducted himself as he rounded the bases. No showboating or grandstanding. Just a quick trot and into the dugout. I thought to myself what a class act !!!
    That I think pretty well sums up this great athlete and gentleman. He represented both the Minnesota Twins and himself with great dignity.

    Gubber

  14. By ed hollesen on May 22, 2011 | Reply

    i was at the game in 1965 when the killer hit thehomerun in the bottom of the 9th to beat the yankees.still have the program and got autograpths on it from rich rollins,earl battey, and billy martin. cheers to harmon,still my all-time favorite player

  15. By hojersey on May 23, 2011 | Reply

    Truely I was moved. Killebrew is strong in both of life and his career. With best regards. He is a great player, I think.

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