Before the internet and 24-hour sports channels, there weren’t a lot of options for national sports news. So when a baseball legend like Harmon Killebrew passes, it’s illuminative to see how he was profiled in the sports magazine of record, Sports Illustrated, using the amazing S.I. vault to look through the articles from the ‘50s and 60’s.
Until May, Killebrew's performance had never matched the elegance of his name. He had been a professional for almost five years, with nothing to show for it except the modest bonus he got for signing with Washington and the knowledge that major league pitchers are better than those around Payette, Idaho, his home town.
In any city Harmon Clayton Killebrew would have an almost infinite capacity for not causing a stir. In 1959 Killebrew was nicknamed "Killer" by desperate sportswriters—sportswriters who also have come up with "Charmin' Harmon," "Harmin' Harmon," and "Bombin' Harmon," depending on the circumstances. The term Killer eventually died of its own silliness, and from being good-naturedly abused by Harmon's teammates. You can't look an abstraction of amiability in the eye and call it Killer, day after day, no matter how hard it hits. But the name persists in some newspapers, and this may be because reporters trying to make colorful and intimate copy out of Harmon have discovered that he is a killer indeed.
Squat, bald and 34; bottom-heavy, thick across the midsection and chronically aggravated by an old soreness in his right knee, he is a picture of the American spectator spreading idly into middle age. He should be at home, sprawled in an overstuffed chair, wearing a fleshed-out T shirt and watching ball games on the tube. Instead, Harmon Killebrew of the, his short, wispy sideburns showing flecks of gray where they creep out from under his batting helmet, has matured into the most dangerous all-round hitter in the American League.
Killebrew travels the nation as a spokesman for Smith's company, speaking to doctors and visiting hospice patients. "Hospice is such a tremendous thing," Killebrew says. "Patients seem to reach an inner peace. Society doesn't like to deal with death, but it's a natural part of living."
And if that whole reading thing isn’t your favorite, you can always watch Harmon Killebrew video all day in tribute. Go for the "Home Run Derby" episodes, and stay for the ... no, you can probably spend a whole day just on the "Home Run Derby" episodes.
Rest in peace, Harmon.