Senators/Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew, the prototype of the pure power hitter, has died, and there are a number of great memorial posts around the baseball Web, including several at SBNation. As always, Joe Posnanski provides one of the best:
Naturally, the reporters began to call him Killer. The nickname, in many ways,was an absurdity. "Killer" fit Killebrew the way "Jazz" fits Utah or "responsible" fits government. He was so quiet and gentle that, when one reporter asked him if he had any hobbies Killebrew said, without apparent irony, that he liked washing dishes at home. He had married his high school sweetheart, and they were raising a family, and there was just nothing violent about his nature. As Barbara Heilman wrote in Sports Illustrated: "You can't look an abstraction of amiability in the eye and call it 'Killer,' day after day, no matter how hard it hits."
While this isn't a directly Mets-related topic I thought it might be appropriate to share some memories and thoughts here, since Killebrew's was a very significant career. Despite not being as über-famous as those above and around him in the career HR record ranks, Killebrew was one of those players who changed baseball, pointing directly to the rise of the "true three outcomes" class of HR-and-K-heavy power hitters of the '90s. And he was also, by all reports, a pretty good guy.
Edit: Here is the memorial thread from SBN Twins site Twinkie Town, and don't miss this recollection of a childhood encounter with Killebrew from Jim Salisbury:
"Baseball has such a tremendous history," he said. "It's different than other sports, I think. I go around to different places, especially in the upper Midwest, and someone will still say,'I was on the tractor the day you hit that home run in Cleveland,' or'I was in the milking barn when you hit that home run against the Yankees.' It's great to hear things like that."
Killebrew lit up when I produced the ball he had signed, and 34 years later, he held it again.
The first name he saw was Thompson, his former teammate who died of leukemia in 1976 at age 29.
"Danny was just a great kid," said Killebrew, the memories flooding back. "I remember wanting to go see him when he was up at the Mayo Clinic. His wife said,'No, Harmon, Danny doesn't want anyone to see him like this.'
"I went to his funeral in his hometown of Capron, Okla. It was so large, they had to have it in a high school gymnasium. "
Killebrew was so moved by Thompson's death he helped establish a memorial golf tournament in honor of his former teammate. The 31-year-old tournament has raised more than $8 million for leukemia research.