Harmon Killebrew, one of baseball's greatest sluggers, died this morning of esophageal cancer. He was 74.
Killebrew announced his diagnosis late last December and was optimistic about making a full recovery.
However, a few days ago, Killebrew stopped cancer treatment and entered hospice.
Killebrew's Hall of Fame career began at the age of 18 as a member of the 1954 Washington Senators. He followed the team as they moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1961 to become the Minnesota Twins. Killebrew became one of the baseball's most feared homerun hitters during the 1960s and early 1970s. He led the American League in homeruns on six occasions while hitting 40 or more homeruns in a season eight times. Killebrew led the AL in RBIs thrice and nine times in his career drove at least 100 runs a season.
In 1965, Killebrew played in his only World Series as the Twins fell to Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. His best individual season came in 1969 when he won the AL MVP with a .276 batting average, 49 home runs and 140 RBI for a Twins team which won the AL West under the leadership of Billy Martin.
Killebrew finished his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1975 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. In all, Killebrew finished his career with 573 homeruns. Those were the days when 573 homeruns meant something.
Away from the field, Killebrew shied away from the spotlight but always conducted himself as a gentleman and treated the public with the utmost respect. He organized an annual golf tournament in memory of Danny Thompson, a Twins teammate who died of leukemia in 1976. Killebrew not only graciously accepted autograph requests but he made sure his signature was legible and encouraged younger players to do the same.
If young baseball players want someone to emulate they couldn't do much better than Harmon Killebrew.
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