Twins legends remember Harmon Killebrew: 'We lost Paul Bunyan'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A group of Minnesota Twins legends gathered at Target Field to say goodbye to a man they called a teammate, friend, family member and a hero.
Just hours after the announced passing of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, Kent Hrbek, Paul Molitor, Tony Oliva, Julio Bécquer, Frank Quilici and Jack Morris all struggled to keep their composure as they one-by-one retold stories and shared memories about the gentle giant affectionately referred to as 'Killer.'
"It's a sad day, we lost an icon. We lost Paul Bunyan," Hrbek said, who grew up in the shadows of Met Stadium where so many of Killebrew's 573 home runs were hit.
Oliva, Molitor and Bécquer were with Killebrew last weekend at his home in Arizona and said he was in good spirits, laughing with his friends and former teammates on Saturday before saying goodbye to them on Sunday.
Oliva said he gave his friend a final hug on Sunday and, "He said, 'You know I love you. You know I love you guys,'"
"I saw the joy he had even in the end," Molitor said. "If you knew him and were mindful of Harmon, your life has been enriched."
Molitor, Hrbek and Morris grew up idolizing Killebrew for the larger-than-life baseball player he was on the field. But after getting to know him over the years as part of the "Twins Family" they now -- like so many others -- idolize him for the man he was off the field.
"I lost a hero today," Morris said as he fought back tears. "To me, he was a real man. He was all man because he loved so much. He was this family we call the Minnesota Twins.
"As a grown man now I'll look back on him not as (the baseball player) but as the guy who tried to show me that you don't have to be angry. You don't have to be mad. You can love and share love," Morris said.
"We lost a dear friend but we will never lose the memory," Quilici said.
As expected, the team will honor Killebrew in a number of ways the rest of the 2011 season. His jersey No. 3 will be prominently featured throughout Twins Territory with a patch on the team's jerseys, a flag in the outfield and a giant "3" carved into the infield dirt just behind second base.
Killebrew's iconic autograph he worked so hard to perfect -- and implored current Twins to do the same -- will be displayed on the outfield wall.
The team had no update on any services for Killebrew but said an announcement regarding a public service held at Target Field will be made shortly.