RIP Harmon Killebrew: Esophageal cancer claims Twins legend
Harmon Killebrew, the former Twins great who announced just last week that he had entered hospice care in Arizona after a months-long battle with esophageal cancer, died today. He was 74 years old.
"I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease," the hometown legend said in a brief note to his fans last week. "My illness has progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure."
After signing with the Washington Senators in 1954 as a 17-year-old, "Killer" Killebrew came to the Twins in 1961 and called the old Met Stadium home until 1974. Named to 11 All Star teams, the Hall of Famer was second only to Babe Ruth in AL home runs. He ended his career with a single season in Kansas City after a contract dispute with Twins management, but returned to the team as an announcer, mentor, and inspiration once his playing days were over.
Twins president Dave St. Peter visited Killebrew in Arizona on Thursday, and released this statement today:
"Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. However, more importantly, Harmon's legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man. The Twins extend heartfelt sympathies and prayers to the Killebrew family at this difficult time."
The Twins say "Killer" the slugger hit the longest measured home runs at the Met, and at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. In 1962, he was the first to clear the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
Here's some of that batting prowess, on display during a home run derby against Mickey Mantle in 1960.
And here he is, talking about knowing when it was time to retire:
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