Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Being Harmon Killebrew
I never got to watch Harmon Killebrew play. As a Minnesotan child of the ‘80s, I watched a different hero. But I have always been aware of who Harmon Killebrew was, and what he did, because Harmon was my Mom’s hero, and my Mom is the reason I love baseball.
She has told me her stories many times. Growing up as the youngest of ten children on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota, my Mom and her older brother would listen to games on the radio and act them out in the yard. Her brother—the second youngest, but still seven years older than her—always got to be Harmon Killebrew. “I had to be Bob Allison,” Mom always says.
In 2006, the Twins won the AL Central on the last day of the season, giving them home field advantage against the A’s in the first round of the playoffs. At one of the games, my Mom saw Harmon sitting in the stands a few sections away. Fans didn’t recognize him. My Mom—in her Harmon Killebrew throwback jersey—approached him after the game. “Harmon, you have always been my hero,” she said. She told him her story about acting out the games as a girl. Of course, Harmon replied, “Bob Allison was a great player to be.” And even though he doesn’t usually sign jerseys, he signed her jersey.
My Mom wore that jersey to the Twins game last Friday, and when she turned her back and they put her on the jumbotron at the end of the game, everybody cheered. My Mom didn’t even realize she was on the jumbotron. I had to explain to her that’s why everyone was just cheering.
Of course, the secret is, my Mom, as a girl, also used to pretend to play baseball in the yard by herself, when her brothers were not around. And then, she got to be Harmon Killebrew.
I had the pleasure of meeting Harmon Killebrew while attending a charity banquet for the Harmon Killebrew Foundation several years ago. It is a great charity, and I urge fans to give something in Harmon’s honor, if you can. It would be the type of thing Harmon would do—and we would all be better people if we tried to be even just a little more like Harmon Killebrew.
Thank you, Harmon, for playing the game, and more importantly, being such a wonderful person.
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