This isn't an easy blog for me to write or even title this week. One of the not so good things about getting older is the bad news we get about many of our childhood heroes and those we watched play, jealous they weren't on our hometown team. Harmon Killebrew was a player that falls into that category for me. The news that he was entering hospice with a cancer that was no longer treatable brought sadness to my heart. That news also made me thing of all the great accomplishments of his on the baseball field. He was a favorite of mine back in the 60's and early 70's. Even though he played for the Twins and I was an A's and Royals fan, I always admired his power and ability to drive in key runs in a game. Plus, Harmon looked like a everyday fan and not a well chiseled athlete, and that made me root for him even more (him and Mickey Lolich who often looked like he had downed a whole pizza or two before taking the mound, kind of like me at times in my life).
Then in 1975, my Royals signed him to a one year deal. He hit a few homers for us that year, but those were not the highlights I remember. What I remember is the warm summer night when Harmon stole not one but two bases. He stole second twice on what we all supposed were missed hit and runs. Pitchers had little concern about him stealing so keeping Killebrew close to the bag was not a priority. Whatever the reasons involved, it was truly a remarkable event to witness.
Fast forward a few years now. My family was visiting the Mall of America in the Twin Cities (Bloomington). As we were looking around I notices a stadium seat hanging on the wall out in the Camp Snoopy area. "Oh yeah," says the operator of the log ride, "That's where Harmon Killebrew's 500th homer landed and they kept the seat in the same location when they tore down Metropolitan Stadium and built this place." I thought that was really cool to see. I mean even if they missed by a few feet, it's still a great tribute to a superb hitter and hero in Minnesota.
It is always sad that eventually our heroes have to show they're mortal and fight the same diseases we do and show they are just like all of us. We know that in our minds, but our hearts want not to believe that fact. All I wish for now is that Harmon finds peace and solace in his final days. In his rememberances as he sleeps, may all his homers be long three run blasts and may every pitcher ignore him at first allowing him to steal bases at will. He'll always one of my all time favorites.