Harmon Clayton Killebrew (/ˈkɪlɨbruː/; June 29, 1936 – May 17, 2011), nicknamed "The Killer" and "Hammerin' Harmon", was an American professional baseball first baseman, third baseman, and left fielder. During his 22-year career in Major League Baseball (MLB), primarily with the Minnesota Twins, Killebrew was a prolific power hitter who, at the time of his retirement, was second only to Babe Ruth in American League (AL) home runs and was the AL career leader in home runs by a right-handed batter (since broken by Alex Rodriguez). He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Killebrew was a stocky 5'11" tall, 213-pound hitter with a compact swing that generated tremendous power. He became one of the AL's most feared power hitters of the 1960s, hitting 40 home runs in a season eight times. In 1965, he played in the World Series with the Twins, who lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. His finest season was 1969, when he hit 49 home runs, recorded 140 runs batted in (RBIs), and won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. Killebrew led the league six times in home runs and three times in RBIs, and was named to eleven All-Star teams.
With quick hands and exceptional upper-body strength, Killebrew was known not just for the frequency of his home runs but also for their distance. He hit the longest measured home runs at Minnesota's Metropolitan Stadium, 520 ft (160 m), and Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, 471 ft (144 m), and was the first of just four batters to hit a baseball over the left field roof at Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Despite his nicknames and his powerful style of play, Killebrew was considered by his colleagues to be a quiet, kind man. Asked once what hobbies he had, Killebrew replied, "Just washing the dishes, I guess."
After retiring from baseball, Killebrew became a television broadcaster for several baseball teams from 1976 to 1988, and also served as a hitting instructor for the Oakland Athletics. He also divorced and remarried during this time, moving to Arizona in 1990 and chairing the Harmon Killebrew Foundation. Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 2010, and died five months later.
By Dean Hanley
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