A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Harmon Killebrew

When more young kids are aware that your name is a drinking game than that of the 11th greatest home run hitter in major league history, which is a position that he will occupy for quite some time since nobody wants to take a chance on Manny Ramirez this off season and because Vladamir Guerrero is suffering from Dominican ball player aging-itis, this is something to say about the state of people understanding baseball history. Then again, many young players are completely unaware of the history of the game.
However, Harmon is just one of a long list of players and managers and announcers to develop life-threatening sickness and to move within inches of shuffling off this mortal coil. To be honest, 2010 was quite the legendary year for baseball with the comings, goings, and happenings, in what has come to be called the year of the pitcher.
But to that, Harmon was no friend of pitchers as he went deep 573 times in his 22 major league seasons. Six times, he led the league in dingers, and 8 times, he walloped more than 40 jacks. Eight times, he had more than 100 RBIs, which was at its zenith as the US put a man on the moon, a year that he contributed to 140 runs for the 1969 Twins. Considering that the Twins only had Rod Carew and Tony Oliva on their team that year, that's saying something.
Killebrew had 49 of the 163 home runs and 140 of the team's 744 RBIs. He was a man amongst men save for the fact he never hit more than 300 in a season (his first season didn't even produce 20 at bats). However, for those 49 jacks in 69, he only whiffed 84 times. That's not even half of a Ryan Howard season, and don't get me started on Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena.
So as the 74 year old has developed esophageal cancer and moved into the Mayo Clinic for treatment. As he says:
"With my wife, Nita, by my side, I have begun preparing for what is perhaps the most difficult battle of my life. I am being treated by a team of medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic. While my condition is very serious, I have confidence in my doctors and the medical staff, and I anticipate a full recovery."
We can only hope that he recovers, and that as he does, people who profess a love of baseball remember that only 41 single seasons were ever greater than his 49 in 69. And while the Twins and the Senators and the Royals of his time were never that good, he was.
His plaque at Cooperstown proves it.

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