He was one of the most feared power hitters of his generation, as well as of all-time.
Harmon Killebrew hit 573 career home runs, ninth-most in major league history. In eight of his 22 seasons he hit more than 40.
In 1969 the former Minnesota Twins star was the American League Most Valuable Player, hitting 49 home runs and leading the Twins to the AL West Division title.
Harmon Killebrew attended an event at the Metrodome last year. The Hall of Fame slugger will throw out the first pitch at the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers game Thursday night at Mills Field. Minnesota Twins
He was an American League All-Star 11 times and in 1984 was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 72-year-old former slugger will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday when the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers open their first Northwoods League season at Mills Field. Earlier Thursday, Killebrew will be the keynote speaker at the Lunkers' Home Opener Luncheon at Cragun's Resort.
It's been a long time since I've been up there," he said Wednesday from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., "so I probably won't recognize anything but I'm looking forward to going up there."
Birth date: June 29, 1936
Birth place: Payette, Idaho
Career stats: 573 home runs, .256 average, 1,584 RBIs
Teams: Washington Senators (1954-1960), Minnesota Twins (1961-1974), Kansas City Royals (1975)
Killebrew addressed several baseball-related topics, ranging steroids to the Twins to what he and his wife, Nita, are involved with in retirement.
Q. Reports of steroid use by Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, two of the game's biggest stars, have been in the news in the last few months. Is the steroid era going to taint the game?
A. "I think it already has. There's a cloud over baseball. It's shocking. It seems like more and more every day you hear about somebody else. It has to get cleaned up, but I think it will take longer than anyone hoped. It's been bad. Anything that hurts the game of baseball I don't like.
"I think the bigger picture is no matter how many home runs they hit, what's going to happen to these guys 5-10 years down road that have taken this stuff? I don't think we know the full impact of that stuff. What kind of message has it been sending to kids in this country?.
"Records are meant to broken, but in the right way."
Q. You played from 1954-75 and your top salary was about $150,000. Ever wish you would have played today with an average salary of $3.26 million?
A. "The money would be great, but I'm glad I played when I did. So many great players played in that era, probably more than in any era in the history of game. It was a pleasure to play in those times."?
Q. Will baseball thrive despite the economy or suffer because of it?
A. "The economy affects everybody, I know it affects baseball as well. The Yankees just opened their new ballpark and people just weren't up to buying those expensive seats. There's a good example right there. It's scary."
Q. The Twins had lost six straight games before Thursday's 20-1 win over the White Sox. You were with the Twins in spring training? Will they turn it around?
A. "I thought I saw more good-looking young players than I've ever seen in spring training. I think the future is bright. They've had a few hiccups to start the season. When it all shakes down at the end of the year I think they should be right in there."
Q. The Twins will move into Target Field next season. Have you toured the facility?
A. The last time I was in Minnesota it was so cold I didn't go to the stadium. I'm hoping this trip I will get to look at it again. They've made great progress. It's a beautiful ballpark. I'm looking forward to it opening next year."
Q. Should Target Field have had a retractable roof?
A. That would have been nice, no question about it. So many kids and adults have grown up who have never seen (major league) baseball outside. Sure, there are going to be days when it's not so nice, but overall I think it will be wonderful."
Q. Do you enjoy making appearances and doing endorsements on the Twins' behalf?
A. "The Twins have been great to me. I think the Twins are the best organization in baseball. Everywhere I go people say, 'Boy, the Twins do it right,' then they go out and do it a different way. It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is."
Q. You and Nita are involved in many humanitarian efforts. What are a few of them?
A. "We've got our golf tournament coming up May 31 and June 1 in the Twin Cities and it will be the sixth year. We've used (the proceeds) for many charitable things. The last couple years we've been building Miracle League fields. We will do one on this trip up there in Minnetonka.
"Miracle League was formed for kids that have physical handicaps, kids in wheelchairs, kids with cerebral palsy. They've formed leagues around the country. They have 260 fields around the country. We just fell in love with it.
"I think every kid deserves a chance to play baseball. You should see the smiles on their faces when they play. There are two rules: Every kid gets to hit, every kid gets to score a run. It's just a great thing. We're building a field in Arizona, and we're hoping to get something started in Idaho, our home state. Miracle League is our big thrust.
"We've done a lot of things over the years, for cancer, for leukemia research. We started the Danny Thompson Golf Tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho. Half the funds raised go to the University of Minnesota Leukemia Research Center, half to Sun Valley. I think we've made an impact. We've raised about $20 million so far. In a small way we're doing some good."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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