Results tagged ‘ Harmon Killebrew ’

RIP Don Mincher

 A former Minnesota Twin by the name of Don Mincher passed away today.  He was before my time, but I know his name from old stories and old highlight reels (especially of the 1965 World Series, a season & series in which he played a key role).

Mincher never accumulated more than 500 at-bats in a single season, but he was a solid platoon player, backup, and fill-in.  For his career (six years of which were spent here in Minny), Mincher hit .249, smacked 200 home runs on the dot, and had a pretty decent .798 OPS.  For a guy who hit the ball with authority, he almost had as many career walks as strikeouts, so he must have had a pretty good eye at the plate to boot.

Though Mincher may always be remembered as “Killebrew’s backup”, at least he is remembered fondly here in Minnesota.

Treading Water

The definition of “treading water” is: “a stroke that keeps the head above water by thrashing or rhythmic movements of the legs and arms”.  Basically, treading water is the act of staying in one place despite a flurry of motion.  The last two days, the Twins have provided a clinic in such a behavor.

Last night, Nick Blackburn pitches a complete game gem…

…and really gets the fans up and yelling at Target Field once again (I was one of them!).

Then today…

…the offense once again goes dormant and gets shutout by Erik Bedard and Co. to lose yet another series.

Thus, essentially, we haven’t gained back any ground that we had lost before Blackie’s inspiring performance.  Treading water.

Preview (16-32, 5th, 5.5 GB CWS): Harmon Killebrew Tribute at Target Field.

The Killer

Today, Minnesota Twins fans, baseball fans, and the world at large lost a hero with the passing of Harmon Killebrew at age 74 due to esophogeal cancer.

There are so many tributes to Harm floating around in cyberspace that I don’t even know where to begin.  Heck, I didn’t even see the guy play, but when EVERYONE who know says he was their hero as a child, a legend is pretty much the closest way of describing him.

I could go so many directions here, but I’ll keep it short and say this: When all is said in done, it really doesn’t matter how many home runs he hit or how many ballgames he won/lost.  Those moments may produce a lot of nostalgia, but the real reason there are a lot of misty eyes in Minnesota right now is because of the type of man Harmon was.  I’ve never heard a harsh word said about him from anyone, and he was always a model for a good, clean, simple life filled with the things and people he loved.  Referencing the “hook” of the above video tribute, I think that Harmon DID get all those letters (or at least tried!).  He also valued them deeply.

When Babe Ruth, the greatest pre-Harmon slugger, was dying of cancer (also of the throat, oddly enough), he was known to quip “The termites have got me.”  Well, sadly those same “termites” got Harm today, along with a big portion of Minnesota childhood for the baby boomers.

As far as relating this to the current Twins team that is mired in a deep slump, I remember a certain ballclub just a few years ago that turned a tragic event:

…into the inspiration for a remarkable comeback.  That team, of course, was the 2006 Twins, who (on May 17) were 9.5 GB in the division and ended up going to the playoffs.

Preview (12-27, 5th, 3.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (2-5, 7.07) vs. Felix Hernandez (4-3, 3.36)

Kirby

Every Spring Training for the MN Twins, at some point I am reminded of the death of Kirby Puckett in 2006.  Although I didn’t become a serious baseball fan until the mid 1990s, the very end of Puck’s cut-short career, I just remember (as a child) the presence of Kirby being larger than life.  He was (perhaps more than any other) the player who initially got me excited about Twins baseball.

It’s very sad to me that Puckett is no longer around.  When I think of legendary players, I think of guys like Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva.  For my dad, for instance, just seeing those guys is enough to rekindle a flood of old (and primarily rosy!) memories.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to do that with Puck.  Later this August, when the Twins have their 20th Anniversary of the 1991 World Series, there will be a big hole in CF, as has been the case since 2006.

We only have videos like the ones in this post to remember #34.

 

Praying For A Legend

HarmonKillebrew34.jpgI think that every state has their own, special sporting legends that seem to transcend the field of play and mean something just a bit more. In Minnesota, that figure was/is Harmon Killebrew.

Now, by the time I became interested in baseball, “The Killer” was already enshrined in Cooperstown, so I don’t have any first-hand insight into the matter, but sometimes you can just tell by the way a guy is talked about.  I haven’t found a person yet who watched Twins baseball in the 1960s-early 70s and DIDN’T idolize Harm.  As a child, my dad rooted for him at the old Met, got his autograph coming out of the stadium (which promptly got stuck in the bicycle spokes, of course…no pristine collector’s cases back then!), and emulated his batting stance and swing on the Little League diamonds.

Thus, I was very saddened to hear that Killebrew has contracted esophogeal cancer.  This may be a tough nut to crack, but (in typical Harmon fashion) he is resolute on beating the diesease.  Pretty mundane stuff for the guy who stared down the likes of Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale, right?

My thoughts and prayers are with the Killebrew family during this rough time.  Having him around as a Twins ambassador reminds me that my elder generation (like my dad) once had heroes too, idolizing the same sort of “mythic” sports heroes I once (and still do) today.

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Good luck Harm!

Gags

Before this past weekend becomes too “old news”, I wanted to take a moment to comment on the induction of Greg Gagne into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.

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Here’s the thing: Gagne was solid defensively, did all the “little things” that the Twins organization values, and is the nicest guy you’ll ever chat with.  He also played for both Twins world championship, 1987 and 1991.

The trouble is, Gagne was the epitome of an “average” ballplayer.  His career batting average was .254 (over 15 seasons), and the highest he ever hit in a single season was .280 (and that was post-Twins with the KC Royals).  He hit 111 career homers, stole 109 bases, yet (in one of the most bizarre stats that you’ll never see in today’s game) was actually caught stealing 96 times.  His OPS in any given season never touched .750.

Thus, I can’t say that I agree whatsoever with the Twins’ inception of Gags into their HOF.  I love to see him (and appreciate his contributions) at team reunions and get-togethers, but putting him in cohorts with names like Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, and Puckett really only cheapens that selection group.

However, I have only congratulations for Mr. Gagne now that the deed has been done.  I’m sure it is a great thrill for him.

One other quick note: The Twins once again put on a great show last weekend with their 50th Anniversary Celebration.  The 50 Greatest Twins ceremony was great, while the old-timers game provided a lot of laughs (Kent Hrbek’s divot, primarily) and good memories.  Like Gene Washington taking his hacks with his new team (the Rangers) standing on the top step laughing their butts off…

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Three Times…A Charm

Tigers_Twins_Baseball_sff_179444_game.jpgAfter the Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning against the Tigers tonight, then just as quickly fell behind 3-2, it looked like perhaps another one of “those” nights would transpire.

However, Blackburn settled down nicely (not spectacular, but enough to give him another turn in the rotation for sure), and let the batters take over.

The obvious player of the game was Denard Span, who tripled three times (tying a club record held by Ken Landreaux in 1980), drive in five runs, and scored twice to kick-start an offense that, by all means, needed a little jolt to the backside.

Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer also picked up clutch hits to break out of some batting doldrums, while Jim Thome hit career home run #572, putting him within one of Harmon Killebrew (I wonder if the Killer will be at the park tomorrow afternoon?!), en route to an eventual 11-4 victory that moved the Twins back into first place.

Notes:

-That outfield wall may not have too many balls fly over it at Target Field, but it sure gives fielders (especially towards that right-center area) fits with all those angles jutting out.  First Thome hits a three-bagger, than Span does him two better in a single game!

Preview (42-35, 1st, 0.5 GA DET): Andrew Oliver (0-1, 3.00) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-5, 4.79). Hopefully Slowey can make like his rotation buddy Blackburn and give us another quality start to retain first place.

Tommy-Boy and Big Papi

Two interesting events in the world of baseball that I would quickly like to touch on:

First, is David “Big Papi” Ortiz…

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As you very well know, Ortiz is currently mired in a slump so long that many people are starting to call it “reality”.  As the stats currently sit, he is hitting a paltry .188 with just one long ball and 21 RBIs in a full 191 at-bats.  I haven’t seen him a whole lot during this horrid stretch, but I guess the word is that he is not catching up to the fastball and, when he does make contact, just pops it up all over the field.

Personally, I hope that Big Papi finds his stroke at some point this season.  When hitting well, he is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball.  I think the thing that Papi has going for him is that, like me, everyone is rooting for him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a full season of at-bats even if he continues to stink.  There are just too many memories like these… http://mlb.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w=/library/open/moments/bbm_04alcs_gm4_nyybos_350.wmv&vid=7808&pid=gen_video&cid=mlb&v=2 … and many others that allow Ortiz time to turn things around.  I’m rooting for him!

On the other hand, there is Tom Glavine…

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He was recently released by the Atlanta Braves (the team for which he played for most of his career) after finally seeming to get healthy following his injury from last season.  There is much buzz going around that Glavine was given a rough deal, but unlike Ortiz, who is universally liked by his home and national fans, Glavine also has THIS on his record…

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For five seasons, Tommy-Boy “jumped shipped” and pitched for the Braves’ biggest rivals, the New York Mets.  I really don’t remember the details of those negotiations, but I do know that Glavine pitched long enough in the Big Apple to identify with fans their as well.  He re-joined the Braves last season but wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to do any real quality pitching.

Personally, I could care less about what Glavine thinks the Braves “owe” him.  As sports fans have learned from the Brett Favre fiasco year after year, until an athlete retires “for good”, sports, at their core, are still a business.  The Braves didn’t want to waste $1 million on Glavine when he could easily just go out and get injured again, and I don’t question their decision on that one bit.  The same thing happened with the Twins and Harmon Killebrew.  Towards the end of his career, Harmon was clearly fading skills-wise and Twins owner Cal Griffeth practically begged him to retire.  Harmon refused, and thus the Twins traded him to Kansas City were he limped to the quick end of his career.

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