MINNEAPOLIS -- He was a fan favorite in Minnesota during his playing days, and several thousand fans turned out Thursday night for Harmon Killebrew's memorial service at Target Field.
Killebrew was a legendary figure among Twins fans for the way he hit towering home runs at Metropolitan Stadium, and a hero for the way he exuded class off the field. After he left a lasting mark on their lives, Twins fans made the trip to the ballpark Thursday to pay one last tribute to Killebrew.
"I was 9 years old when the Twins came to Minnesota, and he was the star," said John Korman of Mendota Heights, Minn. "That's all you could think about is wanting to go down to the old Met and watch Harmon Killebrew."
When Twins fans came to the ballpark in the 1960s, they wanted to see Killebrew hit one of his classic, long home runs to left field. Having hit 573 during his career, Killebrew often granted their wish.
Some were not so lucky.
"I'll never forget the first time I came to Met Stadium down in Bloomington and seeing it for the first time," said Scott Karich of New Brighton, Minn. "Harmon being my favorite player, we were there to see him hit a home run. We wanted to see him hit a home run, and everybody there wanted to see him hit a home run, and that's kind of my memory, that I didn't get to see him hit a home run."
Whether they got to see them in person or not, the one thing fans most closely associated with Killebrew -- besides his genuine personality -- were his home runs.
"I just always remember the crack of the bat over the radio as a South Dakota farm boy," said Mike Reyelts, who now lives in Eagan, Minn. "You could tell Harmon hit the ball out before Herb Carneal even announced it."
The ceremony, which featured speeches from several former players, Commissioner Bud Selig and Killebrew's wife, Nita, received excellent reviews from the fans in attendance.
Among the things that stood out as the more memorable or touching moments to the fans were the heartfelt speeches from former Twins players and from Nita. The musical selections throughout the ceremony also were a highlight, and they included Mudcat Grant, a former teammate of Killebrew, singing "What A Wonderful World."
"Rod Carew's speech," Korman said. "That made me cry."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.