July 2011

Harmon Killebrew passed away a little while ago.  To all you baseball fans or Minnesota residents, you know the name.   He was the face of the Minnesota Twins franchise from the first day they moved from Washington, DC to Bloomington, Minnesota in 1961.  When his career ended he finished fifth on the all-time Major League Baseball home run list.  The only players in front of him were Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson.  That’s pretty good company.  He has since dropped a few notches on the list because of steroid cheaters.  He was named to the All Star team thirteen times.  And played in the 1965 World Series where the Twins lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Harmon was the first Minnesota Twin named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A few years back the Twins named Kirby Puckett as the best Twins player ever.  If Kirby was number one, then Harmon was number 1A.  Harmon was 74 when he died of esophageal cancer.  I admit to being a Minnesota Twins fan.  I even played hooky from school the day the Twins played their first game against the New York Yankees.  Pedro Ramos was the opening day pitcher and I watched every pitch on our black-and-white TV.  For all his accomplishments in his storied career, Harmon remained a genuinely decent man.  He signed every autograph making sure his name was legible.  He spent countless hours doing charitable work.  In short, Harmon Killebrew was one of the good guys.  He was also my mother-in-law’s favorite player.

For countless summer evenings, you would find Ma sitting on the back porch (remember them?) listening to the voices of the late Ray Scott, Herb Carneal, and Halsey Hall alternately describing the Twins action on the field and supplying color commentary over a tiny transistor radio.  To those of you who don’t remember TV before cable, it was a different world media wise.  In the Twin Cities, we had channel 2 (the education channel, pre-PBS), channel 4 (CBS), channel 5 (NBC), channel 9 (ABC) and channel 11 (the independent channel).  Twins games, those played on the road, were televised on channel 11.  Home games were never televised. All the games were carried on the radio on WCCO.  When the Twins played at home, you would find Ma on the back porch with her ears glued to her transistor radio.

The days chores were done, the family was fed, and the dishes were washed, dried, and put away in the cupboard.  She’d pour herself a large iced tea over ice, sit in her lounge chair on the porch and listen to the exploits of the Twins and, especially, Harmon Killebrew.  Oh, she loved the other players like Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Zoilo Versailles, Jim Kaat, and Jim “Mudcat” Grant.  But Harmon was her favorite because “he is such a gentle man.”  Just what you would expect from this gentle woman.

Ma was the second child and first daughter of a Danish immigrant father and a native born American mother.  Her dad and Nanook’s grandfather was an Iowa farmer.  Nine other children followed Ma’s birth.  Ma was raised in a strong Christian family.  Her faith was always strong, very evident, and joyous.  She was a humble person with a tough inner-strength.  She showered love on her husband, her children, and even her in-laws as I can attest.  The love was returned in abundance.

So it was only natural that she adopted Harmon as her favorite player.  She face would erupt into an enormous grin anytime he would hit a moonshot out of the park and into the left field bleachers of the old Met Stadium. 

I would to say to Harmon, once you get comfortable in your new home, make Ma’s day.  Stop by and introduce yourself.  She’ll be easy to find.  She’ll be sitting on the porch over there, sipping an iced tea, and listening to the Twins on a tiny transistor radio.

Remember, it’s rChance to thrive, every day and in every way.  

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