Minnesota Twins Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew passed away yesterday, May 17, at the age of 74. Many of STACK’s younger readers likely have never heard of the slugger from the Twin Cities, in part because of his humility. He could go down as one of the most underrated players in history.
Although it’s not always true of today’s athletes, Killebrew never complained about playing in small market Minnesota. He was just happy to be playing professional baseball, and it showed on the field. “I’m just thankful I was able to play as long as I did and do as well as I did,” said Killebrew in 1998. Young athletes who perform with the same class and humility as Killebrew will be favored by recruiters.
Classic names grace the top of the all-time home run list: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey. And Killebrew is not far behind. His 573 career home runs rank him 11th on the all-time list. His consistency, however, was arguably better than most others. According to ESPN.com, “His eight seasons with 40 or more homers ties for second in league history, to Babe Ruth.”
Killebrew also holds the distinction of being an All-Star at three positions: first base, third base and outfield.
Killebrew is remembered for the class he displayed on the field. Former pitcher Tommy John says, “He never showed you up, no flaps down or anything, just that little number 3—like Babe Ruth—trotting like he hit ’em before and he would hit ’em again.”
Most remember the way he hit the ball, the main reason he landed in the Hall of Fame in 1984. “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,” says Commissioner Bud Selig. “He led his life with modesty and dignity.”