Killebrew was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, the first Twin to be enshrined. Killebrew's No. 3 jersey was retired in 1975. Killebrew's easygoing demeanor contrasted starkly with his nickname and standing as one of baseball's most feared hitters.
"I didn't have evil intentions," Killebrew said on his website. "But I guess I did have power."
Harmon Clayton Killebrew was born June 29, 1936, in the Idaho farm town of Payette. He was an all-state quarterback in high school, but it was his power with a baseball bat in his hands that got Killebrew noticed by Washington Senators scout Ossie Bluege.
On Killebrew's website, Bluege recounted how he signed the 17-year-old to a $30,000 contract in 1953.
"I waited for the rain to stop in Payette, Idaho, and then he hit one a mile over the left field fence," Bluege said. "I stepped it off the next morning and measured it at 435 feet. That convinced me."
Killebrew didn't just hit balls over the fence, he turned at-bats into longest-drive contests. He never worried much about his short game, preferring instead to swing for the fences, and wound up with a career .256 average.
"I didn't think much about batting average when I was playing," Killebrew said.
On June 3, 1967, Killebrew belted the longest home run in Met Stadium history, a shot that reached the second deck of the bleachers in the old park, some 500 feet from home plate.
"He hit line drives that put the opposition in jeopardy," Bluege once said. "And I don't mean the infielders. I mean the outfielders."
Killebrew finished his career with one season in Kansas City in 1975.
Commissioner Bud Selig said he was saddened by the death of a "true gentleman."
"Harmon was as tough and feared a competitor on the field as the game has ever seen, while off the field he touched everyone he encountered with his sensitive and humble nature," Selig said. "He led his life with modesty and dignity and I will miss him forever."
Killebrew and Nita had nine children. In retirement, he became a successful businessman in insurance, financial planning and car sales. He also traveled the country with baseball memorabilia shows and returned to the Twin Cities regularly, delighting in conversations with fans and reunions with teammates.
With strong competition from Kirby Puckett in the generation that followed him, Killebrew will go down as perhaps the most popular Twins player in history, possibly in all of Minnesota sports. Killebrew Root Beer is sold at Target Field, and there's a Killebrew Drive next to the mall where Metropolitan Stadium once stood in suburban Bloomington.
"Harmon Killebrew was a gem. I can never thank him enough for all I learned from him," said former teammate Rod Carew. "He was a consummate professional who treated everyone from the brashest of rookies to the groundskeepers to the ushers in the stadium with the utmost of respect. I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Harmon Killebrew. He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski and Associated Press Writers Tara Bannow and Patrick Condon contributed to this report.
Online: Harmon Killebrew's website: http://www.harmonkillebrew.com
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