Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Killebrew had big moments at Tiger Stadium

Ask any Detroit Tigers fan who has walked this earth at least a half-century, and they'll tell you that, back in the day, few right-handed batters were as fearsome as Frank Howard and Harmon Killebrew.
Howard eventually played for the Tigers, late in his career, but Killebrew was always in the opposing dugout.
The Idaho native broke in with the Washington Senators in 1954 and then, after the Senators moved to Minneapolis in 1961, he became a fixture as a Twin before ending his 22-year career with the Kansas City Royals.
Killebrew, perhaps the most popular Twin ever, and perhaps the best player in that franchise's history, died of cancer Tuesday at age 74.
Killebrew, naturally, had many memorable moments in a Hall of Fame career that included 573 home runs.
A couple from Tiger Stadium stand out.
On Aug. 3, 1962, Killebrew became the first batter to hit a home run over the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium. Killebrew hit the shot off Jim Bunning, one of the better right-handed pitchers in Tigers history, and it happened on my dad's birthday, with our family in the stands.
Nine years later, in the 1971 All-Star Game at Detroit, Killebrew's power again helped forge a moment of history.
In a game best known for Reggie Jackson's blast off a right-field light tower, Killebrew also went deep.
He hit one of six round-trippers during the American League's 6-4 win over the N.L. (American League victories were rare in those days, kids.)
Killebrew, Jackson, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente and Frank Robinson, each a future Hall of Famer, hit a home run apiece on that starry July night.
In the photo above, Killebrew is pictured with Robinson, left, and Jackson at the 1971 All-Star Game.


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