Saturday, May 21, 2011

Remembering Killer Killebrew: A Fan’s View

By Glenn Vallach, Yahoo! Contributor Network
May 17, 2011
This article was produced by a Yahoo! Sports user.

Everyone has romantic reminiscences of their childhoods, and if you were a baseball fan growing up in the 1960s, you had your choice of icons and legends to follow.
Principally, my hero was Mickey Mantle, which I understand is a fairly crowded bandwagon. He was everything all kids who loved baseball wanted to be—powerful like Hercules, fast like a rocket, as graceful as a dancer in the field until injuries lopped off some brilliance in his later years. I, and many, many others from that era, learned how to switch hit because Mick was a switch hitter.
As a studious observer of baseball, even at that early age, I became a fairly sophisticated connoisseur of every facet of the game and all the teams that engaged in them. And, for a reason I cannot trace, one of those teams and one of those players was the Minnesota Twins and Harmon Killebrew. I followed his exploits in the newspaper daily. In an age when these stars were on display infrequently on television, I watched for Killebrew fervently.
I can recall many a summertime wiffle ball game at my family's lake house in which the pretend participants were the Detroit Tigers and those Twins. As such, I learned, and can easily repeat today, the batting stances and styles of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison (another personal favorite), Zoilo Versailles, and Rod Carew from the Twins and Norm Cash, Al Kaline, Bill Freehan and many others on the Tigers.
Perhaps the attraction emerged because of Killebrew's sheer power. I remember considering him a kind of clone of Mickey Mantle, maybe a Mickey-lite even though Killebrew actually hit more career home runs than Mantle. I guess it's one of the elusive vagaries of life, such a curiosity about a ballplayer more than half way across the country.
Now he's gone, along with so many others from era. Each time, a little of me dies with them.
I have been a New York Mets fan since foolishly abandoning the might Yankees in my youth after Mickey Mantle retired. Since the fond, fleeting memories of the Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee years, I sit quietly yearning for a fraction of the success enjoyed annually by the team that inhabits the borough in which I was born—waiting and hoping—waiting and hoping.

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