I felt a twinge of sadness yesterday when I heard about the death of baseball hall of famer Harmon Killebrew. It had been reported just a couple of weeks ago that Killebrew had stopped treatement for esophogeal cancer and had entered hospice care--which usually means the end is near.
Killebrew was one of those underrated superstars of the game--whose accomplishments seem to fade further from the spotlight as we go along. He retired as the fifth all-time home run leader--and is still number 11 on the list--passed by a few players whose career numbers are certainly tainted by steroids. Want to win a bar bet? Ask who hit the most home runs in the 1960's? I doubt even the most die-hard, old-time baseball fan would guess Harmon Killebrew before Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle--but "The Killer" out-homered all of them over that ten year period.
Killebrew is beloved in the Twin Cites--I had to drive under his road sign almost every day when I lived over there--since the street were the Mall of America is located is Killebrew Drive. But that is not why his death makes me sad--it's actually more personal than that.
When I was a kid, my Dad had a Harmon Killebrew model, wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat that he had used as a teenager. Dad used that bat to hit me groundballs, pop flies and "worm burners" on countless warm, summer evenings. Not to get all "Field of Dreams" here, but those are times I really miss. Just a father and son sharing the tradition of baseball and time together. I think Dad used to hit balls a little bit harder or a little bit farther than I could hope to catch them--just to make me a little bit better.
Unfortunately, that Killebrew bat won't be part of me passing that tradition down to my son. When I was a teenager, I--in typical teenager form--used the bat for home run derby with my friends....and cracked it. I slipped the bat back into the spot in the garage where Dad kept it--so I don't know if he ever knew that I had broken it (I guess he'll find out now--since my Mother reads the Two Cents Blog regularly).
So with the passing of "The Killer", I lose yet another cherished part of my childhood.