- Nov 1, 2008
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Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew dies of cancer at age 74 - ESPN
Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew died Tuesday at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the team jointly announced. Killebrew, who had esophageal cancer, was 74.
Killebrew announced recently that the cancer had been deemed incurable by his doctors and he was entering hospice care.
"With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options," Killebrew said in a statement Friday. He added: "I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides."
Killebrew is 11th on baseball's all-time home run list with 573.
Killebrew was receiving treatment at a branch of the Mayo Clinic nearby after his diagnosis in December. He expressed optimism at the time, saying he expected to make a full recovery while acknowledging he was in "perhaps the most difficult battle" of his life.
Killebrew was able to travel to Fort Myers, Fla., in March for his annual stint as a guest instructor at spring training with the Twins. He was in good spirits and appeared healthy, only thinner, quipping that manager Ron Gardenhire gave him the OK to show up a little late. He said he relished the opportunity to immerse himself in baseball and divert his focus from the treatment and the disease.
But his plan to throw out the first pitch at the team's home opener in April was scrapped. He said then in a statement that such a trip would disrupt his treatment schedule, though he remained hopeful for a recovery.
Killebrew made 11 All-Star appearances during a 22-year career spent mostly with the Washington Senators and the Twins when they moved to Minnesota in 1961. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was fifth on the career home run list when he retired in 1975 after one season with the Kansas City Royals.
Killebrew's eight seasons with 40 or more homers is tied for second in league history to Babe Ruth. He won the American League MVP award in 1969, when the Twins won their division and lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Championship Series.
The 49 homers, 140 RBIs and 145 walks he compiled that season remain Twins records.
In the plaza outside Target Field, there is a giant bronze glove where fans pose for pictures. It is the same distance from home plate, 520 feet, as the longest home run Killebrew ever hit. His No. 3 jersey is retired, and a replica was hung in the home team dugout, likely for the rest of the season. There's a statue in his likeness outside the ballpark, too, and two roses were left near the base of the statue on Friday.
Killebrew had maintained a regular presence around the Twins over the years He made an effort to get to know almost all the current players, striking particularly close friendships with Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Jim Thome among others.
His nickname, "The Killer," defied his humble, gentle demeanor, but he sure could crush a baseball with that big bat of his.
"I didn't have evil intentions," Killebrew once said, "but I guess I did have power."
His home run totals turned out to be that much more impressive, given the smaller parks, watered-down pitching staffs and juiced balls and players that came in the decades after he retired.
Though Killebrew has been passed in recent years by Alex Rodriguez and Thome on the homer list to fall out of the top 10, he ought to be in 11th place for some time, particularly as dominant young pitchers have taken control of the post-steroid era in baseball. With Manny Ramirez's sudden retirement last month, the next closest active players are Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones with 440.
Albert Pujols, with 415 homers at age 31, might be the next threat to reach Killebrew's mark.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.