Happy Birthday–June 29

Wilbert Robinson (1863)
Harry Frazee (1880)
Bobby Veach (1888)
Ollie Carnegie (1899)
Ken Blackman (1911)
Dizzy Trout (1915)
Cal Drummond (1917)
Bob Shaw (1933)
Harmon Killebrew (1936)
Larry Stahl (1941)
John Boccabella (1941)
Bruce Kimm (1951)
Rick Honeycutt (1954)
Pedro Guerrero (1956)
John Wehner (1967)
Katsuya Nomura (1935)

An original Twin, Harmon Clayton Killebrew was with the Twins through the 1974 season.  Born and raised in Payette, Idaho, he was signed by Washington in 1954 under the "bonus baby" rules, which required him to be on the major league roster for two full years.  While he obviously overcame it, one has to think that slowed his development, as he got only 93 at bats in his first two major league seasons.  He got 34 more at bats through June of 1956, then his two years finally expired and he got regular playing time in the minors, coming back as a September call-up.  He hit around .280 in the minors in 1957 and 1958, hitting a total of 48 home runs, and got brief time in the majors both years.  Finally, in 1959, Killebrew reached the majors to stay.  He had been exclusively a third baseman in the minors, and he was the regular third baseman for Washington in 1959.  He responded by hitting 42 home runs, driving in 105 runs, making his first of eleven all-star teams, and finished fifteenth in MVP voting.  He played both first and third in 1960, had another fine year, and came to Minnesota with the team in 1961 as its first star player.  He played mostly first base in 1961, then moved to the outfield for 1962-1964.  He kept hitting, belting between 45 and 49 homers each season, posting an OPS over .900 every year, finishing in the top eleven in MVP voting, and making the all-star team every year except 1962 (an odd omission, since he led the league in homers and RBI that year).  He was injured part of 1965, when he was moved back to the infield, but still finished fifteenth in MVP balloting as he helped lead the Twins to the World Series.  He bounced back to play in every game in 1966 and 1967, playing primarily at third in 1966 and almost exclusively at first in 1967.  He hit a total of 83 homers with 234 walks in those seasons and finishing in the top four in MVP voting each year.  In 1968, Killebrew was having a bad year when he was famously injured in the all-star game, not coming back until September.  It was a bad year for Harmon, but he came back to play in every game in 1969, mostly at third but a substantial number at first, and leading the league in homers, RBIs, walks, and OBP and winning his only MVP award.  He remained at third in 1970 and had another fine year.  Shifted to first in 1971, Killebrew continued to play well, but signs of decline began to show; his OPS that season was the lowest of his career to that point other than in 1968.  He slipped a little more in 1972 and became a part-time player after that.  Killebrew became a free agent after the 1974 season.  The Twins thought he was finished, but he thought he wasn't, so he signed with Kansas City.  Unfortunately, the Twins were right:  Killebrew hit only .199 with fourteen homers as a Royal, and his playing career came to an end.  It was a tremendous career, though.  As a Twin/Senator, he hit .258/.278/.514, with 559 homers, giving him a total of 573 home runs for his career.  He made eleven all-star teams, including nine in a row from 1963-1971.  He was in the top ten in MVP voting seven times and in the top fifteen ten times.  Harmon Killebrew was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, the first Twin to be so honored.  Despite denials from major league baseball, Killebrew is widely thought to be the model for the MLB logo.  He was a television broadcaster for the Twins from 1976-1978, with Oakland from 1979-1982, with California in 1983, and back with the Twins from 1984-1988.  Harmon Killebrew retired to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he was the chair of the Harmon Killebrew Foundation, which is dedicated to enriching the quality of life by promoting positive and healthy participation in sports.  He also founded the Danny Thompson memorial golf tournament, which has raised millions of dollars for leukemia research.  Sadly, Harmon Killebrew passed away from esophageal cancer on May 17, 2011.

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