With family at his side, Harmon Killebrew passes away in Arizona
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Harmon Killebrew's battle with esophageal cancer has come to an end.
The Minnesota Twins' legendary slugger passed away on Tuesday morning at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home, the team announced. He was 74.
Killebrew announced on Friday he was entering hospice care after his illness "progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure." He died peacefully with his wife, Nita, and other family members at his side, the team's statement said.
"No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew," Twins president Dave St. Peter said in a statement.
"Harmon will long be remembered as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the history of the game and the leader of a group of players who helped lay the foundation for the long-term success of the Twins franchise and Major League Baseball in the Upper Midwest. However, more importantly Harmon's legacy will be the class, dignity and humility he demonstrated each and every day as a Hall of Fame-quality husband, father, friend, teammate and man. The Twins extend heartfelt sympathies and prayers to the Killebrew family at this difficult time."
A native of Payette, Idaho, Killebrew signed with the Washington Senators as a "bonus baby" in 1954. He made his big-league debut later that year at age 18, followed the Senators franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and retired after a single season with the Kansas City Royals in 1975 with 573 home runs, which still ranks 11th all-time.
Killebrew made 13 All-Star games, won the American League MVP award in 1969 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility, receiving 83.13% of the vote in 1984.
"Harmon Killebrew personified Hall of Fame excellence in every aspect of his dynamic life," said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "He will forever be remembered for his 573 career home runs and as the 1969 American League Most Valuable Player, and as one of the greatest hitters of his era.
"Since joining the Hall of Fame family in 1984, Harmon was a beacon of light among his fellow Hall of Famers, always smiling, always enjoying every moment that life delivered at his doorstep. We have so many fond memories of this wonderful baseball hero, and we will miss him enormously."
Killebrew remained active in his post-retirement years with the Twins' organization, which retired his No. 3 jersey. His final public appearance came in March during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. -- a visit that left many optimistic about his chances for beating the disease with which he was diagnosed in December.
"When I learned the news about Harmon (on Tuesday), I felt like I lost a family member," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "He has treated me like one of his own. It's hard to put into words what Harmon has meant to me. He first welcomed me into the Twins family as an 18 year old kid and has continued to influence my life in many ways. He is someone I will never forget and will always treasure the time we spent together. Harmon will be missed but never forgotten."
Said former Twins teammate Rod Carew, "This is a sad day for all of baseball and even harder for those of us who were fortunate enough to be a friend of Harmon's. Harmon Killebrew was a gem. I can never thank him enough for all I learned from him. He was a consummate professional who treated everyone from the brashest of rookies to the groundskeepers to the ushers in the stadium with the utmost of respect. I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Harmon Killebrew. He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."