Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Killer!

I had two sports heroes as a kid. Only two. One was Joe Willie Namath, a carousing, loud, look at me, heavy drinking playboy (love that 60's word, kids?). The other was a quiet, humble strongman. Harmon Killebrew. I loved, love, Harmon Killebrew. I remember my Dad and Uncle Dick taking me to games at the Met, and whenever the Twins came to Kansas City to play the A's and later the Royals. My only goal was to see Harmon Killebrew hit a home run. It never happened. The best I could come up with was the Killer blasting a Lee Stange fastball off the left field fence at the Met back in 1967 and lumbering into second with a double. Hey, but in retrospect, that was ok. I saw Harmon Killebrew play ball on numerous occasions.

Harmon, the Killer, the Fat Kid, Brew, the guy who I once heard a fan behind me in Kansas City say, "Killebrew's on deck, squeezing his bat into sawdust" announced on Friday he was entering hospice care and giving up any treatment for his esophageal cancer. Goddamn. How can he die? He's only 74. He's the freaking epitome' of what kids should look up to as a sports hero. And he's dying of a horrific disease. Meanwhile, these pricks who make up today's sports leagues carry on with their self indulgent, egomaniacal, shitty behavior and get rewarded for it. Life sucks sometimes. It makes me wonder.

Who doesn't love Harmon Killebrew? I remember arguing with friends about his Hall Of Fame credentials. They thought he was Dave Kingman, I though he was the second coming of Babe Ruth. I won. He got in to the Hall easily. He gave a humbling speech in which he thanked one of his sons, who had gone down a bad path. Who does that? He does.

Two thing caused me to drift from the Minnesota Twins in the 70's and the 80's. One was that Dome as I have said. But the other was my refusal to forgive Cal Griffith for shipping Harmon Killebrew off to Kansas City to play the last year of his career as a DH. I even drove to KC twice that summer to hopefully fulfill my goal of seeing him hit a smashing home run. But The Killer was 40, and slower than ever, and a shell of his former self. He grounded out everytime I saw him hit in that last season in KC as a Royal. Why, Cal? Why would you do that to your greatest player? The Royals were good, you sucked. Would he have really hurt you stagger to a worse than 76-83 record that year? He retired after that season, as a Royal? Good god. That's blasphemy, Cal.

Now we will all say goodbye to Harmon Killebrew. The best Twin ever. In all ways. Maybe the best ball player ever, in some ways. When The Brew gets to wherever it is we go after death, I hope Calvin Griffith says sorry. But knowing Harmon, he would say no need, Cal. You did what you thought best. Harmon is like that.

My Dad had this cancer. It 'aint fun not being able to swallow. It's painful. Hospice is the end. Both of my parents were in hospice before they passed. The saints who work there will make the end comfortable for the Killer. And judging from what I know about this great hero of mine, he will make it comfortable for them. I'm going to go cry now.


Jack Jodell said...

Max's Dad,
I am writing this through a stream of tears. This was a beautiful testament to a humble giant of a man who always put forth a fabulous example. It is so unjust that he must die at this time this way! He was my boyhood hero, too, and I will never ever forget him!

I had better luck than you. I saw at least 4 or 5 of his homers at the Met. 10 years ago, I was lucky enough to meet him face to face and he was very obliging and friendly as I asked for his autograph. He gave it to me for free and thanked me for having been a Twins fan since day one.

Speaking of the no-bullpen. non-hitting Twins, they are off to the worst start in their history. Their run differential is embarrassing and they are making way too many foolish mistakes on the field. Yes, they've had some key injuries, but when 4 of 9 players in the lineup are hitting in the .100s range, 3 in the low to mid .200s range, 1 in the upper .200s range, and only one hitting over.300, it is inexcusable. The starters can rarely last until the 7th inning, the bullpen can't hold a lead, and the closers can't close. The lack of leadership on the field is disgusting. I have never seen such complacency or poor execution on ANY team.

It is time for a BIG CHANGE in that organization. The Pohlads have traded away too many good players and have allowed our farm system to wither. It will be a long, long time before we're playoff or World Series-bound again, my friend. ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

Max's Dad said...

Jack-you met Harmon Killebrew? That would have been my tongue tied moment. Thanks for you memories also.

The Twins are awful this year. I don't see any late season surge coming on with that pitching staff. But we can always take solace in the fact the Yankees won't sweep them out of the playoffs yet again. That's really searching for a silver lining I guess.