Was he the greatest Twin of all time? For fans who were there during his playing days, the consensus is overwhelming. Even for the younger generations, he is an icon of hard work, talent and decency. Not a bad definition of greatness there.
As a little kid, I listened to the Twins games from the mid-sixties on an old radio at my grandparents’ house. Halsey Hall had a distinctive cadence that, from the perspective of my many years now, reminds me of the rolling gait of a happy man meandering from one waterhole to another. But even the inimitable Halsey glowed with hope every time Harmon stepped onto the plate.
The years have passed. Halsey is deceased. Harmon hung up his spikes and for a while did some shows himself. I was in college where what I was learning about chemistry and history was moderately, if not overly, supplemented with life lessons at the Culla Tavern. A delicious anachronistic time warp of a place, there was an old plastic Hamm’s Beer white radio in one corner. There was a scoreboard on the front and I think you were supposed to score the score with some kind of erasable pen. It also had the word Harmon scrawled on it, presumably to follow the man’s home runs. I have some Culla artifacts saved from the Progress March under the bulldozer blades. I would have liked to have had Harmon radio and I sincerely hope that it is in good hands.
More years go by. I’m now married to a girl I knew at Culla’s, who plays scrabble at the back table near Harmon radio. We have three sons. One has the middle name Harmon.
In 2010 the children were quite old and we had a little more free time. One evening my wife and I went to a dinner hosted by local baseball fans. The guest speaker was Harmon Killebrew. He gave a pleasant and light speech although I thought he looked a little tired and pulled.
Afterwards, he would sign things for people. I walked over to him and said, “Mr. Killebrew, I don’t need anything signed, I just wanted to let you know that we gave your name to one of our children.” He smiled, chuckled a little as he shook my hand, and told me he had heard of several dogs that bear his name, but no children.
He was of course characteristic modesty. It wasn’t until a few months later that she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. And when it became, quite possibly anyway, a more exclusive Hall of Fame than Cooperstown *, there was a surge of fan appreciation that included the mention of other examples of a new generation of Harmons. .
* Theology is above my salary, but Ty Cobb in heaven? Oh, I don’t think so.