Baseball Great Harmon Killebrew Passed Away Today

Some of you might be wondering why I would want to write about the passing of a great baseball player on a car and racing website but I will get to that later. Harmon Killebrew was literally one of my boyhood heroes. One reason was because he was from Idaho and a lot of my relatives were from Idaho and during my teenage years, I spent every summer there. Another might be because his best year in the Major Leagues was 1969 when I was 10 years old. I remember it well because it was also the the 100th anniversary of Major League Baseball and all the players wore special patches on their sleeves. That year, Harmon won the MVP Award in the American League and hit 49 homers and had 140 RBIs and 145 walks, all Minnesota Twins records to this day. He hit the most home runs in the 1960s, more than Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

An 18 year old Harmon Killebrew in the Major Leagues.
An 18 year old Harmon Killebrew in the Major Leagues.

Growing up in Northern California I was always a Giants and A’s fan but my favorite player was Harmon Killebrew. I still have a lot of his baseball cards even though some of his early cards are pretty expensive. I have a Harmon Killebrew endorsed baseball bat and his autobiography. As I got older, I probably became even more of a fan. I enjoyed his interviews and was impressed by the way he conducted himself. I always tell my son, when you’re really good you don’t have to tell everybody, they’ll tell you. Harmon was like that, he just quietly went out and did his job, and usually better than anyone else. He was an All Star at 3 different positions. I never remember hearing anyone say anything bad about him. He was “class” in a baseball uniform. It seems like that has become more and more rare today, especially in sports, which brings me to the car connection.
Terry Labonte 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion.
Terry Labonte 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion.

For much of my life I was not a racing fan, but in 1996, I happened to turn on the NASCAR Champions Banquet. I started watching just as Terry Labonte got up to give his speech for being the 1996 Winston Cup Champion. I couldn’t believe it, he was a lot like Harmon Killebrew, so humble and appreciative of all the help he received and grateful for his team and owner. He spent the whole time talking about the impact of other people in his life and career. He could have easily talked about how he was now a 2-time champion, pretty rare in NASCAR, but he didn’t. I thought: “What a classy guy”. From that moment on, I have been a racing fan and in particular a Terry Labonte fan. I have since learned that racing is full of “classy” guys who are grateful for the help they have received. Maybe its because it is such an expensive sport, I don’t know, but it is like that on every level from what I have observed. A few that have impressed me lately are Jason Fensler from Elk Grove who recently won the K&N race in Roseville and Bill Lester who grew up in Oakland and just won the GT race in Virginia last weekend. They are on different levels and different kinds of racing but they both seem to have the same humble attitude.
Harmon Killebrew from Payette Idaho
Harmon Killebrew from Payette Idaho 1936 - 2011.

Anyway, back to Harmon Killebrew, I was genuinely saddened by his death. He will definitely be missed. I have been reading all the articles and comments about him. Not too long ago, he went on the Tim McCarver show and talked about his life and baseball. It was great to hear him again. He set a great example, especially for people in sports, of how to live your life. Thankfully there are great and talented men like him and Terry Labonte out there that “get it”. Harmon Killebrew was truly a hero to the people of Minnesota and also for one little boy who grew up Fair Oaks.

2 thoughts on “Baseball Great Harmon Killebrew Passed Away Today”

  1. Great article Teem !! Harmon Killabrew was the real deal for sure and just like our other Hero from Idaho, Vernon Law.

    1. Thanks Capp! There a book out about Vernon Law and the Pirates that I need to read. How close is Payette to Meridian?

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