Players became fans when it came to Killebrew

Players became fans when it came to Killebrew

MINNEAPOLIS -- For all the home runs he hit in his career, and the impressive distances they traveled, it was Harmon Killebrew's personality that left a lasting impact on his friends, family, former teammates and the Twins organization.

They made that clear Thursday night at Target Field, when several current and former Twins shared their memories of the Hall of Fame slugger.

"He was more than a great baseball player," said Hall of Famer Rod Carew in one of the more touching speeches of the night. "He loved people. And he loved treating them the right way -- and respected everyone."

Carew shared a story, about the nicknames he and Killebrew had for each other.

During his second season with the Twins, Carew was talking one day in the dugout with Killebrew, who told him that he couldn't call him "Rookie" anymore, so he was going to call him "Junior." From that day forward, they addressed each other as "Junior" and "Charlie."


Carew never explained why he called Killebrew by the name "Charlie," but it gave everyone in attendance a look into their close relationship just the same.

"I tried to model myself after Harmon Killebrew, that's how much he meant to me," Carew said. "There will only be one face of this organization, and that's Harmon Killebrew."

Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau shared their thoughts, and a video from former Twins Gold Glover Torii Hunter was shown on the video board as well. Each described the way Killebrew helped them change their signatures to make them more legible for fans.

Killebrew's autograph -- which was added to the wall in right at Target Field -- was among the best in baseball, and he made it a point to ensure that fans could tell it was his. It was one of many examples of the concern Killebrew had for others, no matter their status in life.

When he reached the podium, Paul Molitor shared a note about his signature as well, in one of the more lighthearted moments of the night.

"Harmon actually liked my autograph," Molitor said. "Just to get that out of the way."

Molitor talked about another common topic regarding Killebrew, his nickname.

"Much has been made of the irony of his nickname, Killer, given his tranquil personality," Molitor said. "But there's irony in his first name, too, Harmon, or Harm. Because he never did any harm to anyone -- except for opposing pitchers."

Like many Twins fans, Molitor grew up idolizing Killebrew as a child. He recalled the way players would always fight over the No. 3 jersey when he played Little League.

Now a Hall of Famer himself, Molitor eventually became close friends with his idol.

As much as they remembered him for his kindhearted nature, Killebrew's friends and former teammates were among his biggest fans, too.

And just like any other Twins fan, they loved to see him hit the ball out of the park.

"The thing that set Harmon apart from other home run hitters was the trajectory he hit in his home runs," said former Twins All-Star pitcher Jim Kaat, who was also a teammate of Killebrew's. "There were two players in the American League who made you say, 'Wow'. And that was Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.