September 1, 2021

Once Killebrew had a full-time job, the home runs came in bunches

It was under Calvin Griffith that Harmon Killebrew landed a full-time role with the Washington Senators and eventual Twins, hitting 73 home runs over the final two seasons of Senators baseball in Washington, D.C. From 1959 until 1970, Killebrew would hit 40 or more home runs eight times, including 48 in 1962 and 49 in 1964 and 1969, the same year he was named the American League MVP.

A Harmon Killebrew banner hangs along U.S. 95, welcoming visitors to Payette, Idaho.

Not only did he hit his home runs in bunches, he also became known for his powerful swing and gravity-defying blasts, according to “Ultimate Slugger,” a 2012 biography of Harmon by sportswriter Steve Aschburner.

“His home runs were spectacular,” Hall of Fame Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson said about Killebrew, according to the book. “He hit (68 home runs) against us, and I got tired of seeing him run around third base. He had the nicest, sweetest stroke you would want to see for a home run hitter. He just rested his bat on his shoulder, just took it back and — wham! No extra motion, no hitch or anything. He just muscled it out.”

In August 1962, according to the book, Killebrew delivered one of his biggest hits, smashing a home run off Detroit Tigers pitcher Jim Bunning that left Tiger Stadium.

“No one had ever done that,” Aschburner writes.

The date of that game isn’t mentioned in the book, but after checking, it appears to have been played on Aug. 3, 1962, a 7-4 Twins win. Killebrew took Bunning deep (really deep) in the fourth inning, hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning. It was his 27th dinger of the year. Harmon went 2-for-5 in that game and drove in three runs.

Our visit to Payette, Idaho isn’t just about learning more about Killebrew and his hometown, we’re also on vacation, so we headed north of Payette to Weiser, Idaho and played nine holes of golf at Rolling Hills Golf Course on Tuesday. We had beautiful weather and the course pretty much to ourselves.

Not sure you can tell from this picture, but there’s a giant “W” for Weiser on top of that hill behind my son.
Hole No. 4 at Rolling Hills Golf Course, Weiser, Idaho.

Weiser also has a major league baseball connection. Walter Johnson, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Washington Senators during the early part of the 20th century, played semi-pro ball in Weiser, according to Aschburner’s book. In 1907, his second season there, Johnson went 14-2 with a 0.55 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 146 innings, Aschburner writes. For Johnson, arguably the greatest major league baseball pitcher of all time, those numbers sound just right.

Extra innings…

-The Twins went quietly Tuesday, losing 3-1 to the Chicago Cubs at home. The Twins scored a run in the bottom of the first and that was it. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, left seven men on base and grounded into two double plays.

-I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s game. Top pitching prospect and Team USA silver medalist winner, Joe Ryan, who came to the Twins from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Nelson Cruz trade, gets the ball. By all accounts, his brief time spent at Triple-A St. Paul has been sensational.


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.