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As other see it: 'The Killer' was an inspiration

Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew was a special baseball player and a special human being. The 74-year-old former slugger announced Friday that he wass giving up his fight against esophageal cancer and lived his final days under hospice care (he died Tuesday).

Immediately following the announcement, tributes began pouring in, and visitors to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis stopped at Killebrew's bronze statue to pay their respects. The Twins hung Harmon's No. 3 uniform in their dugout, where it will remain for the rest of the 2011 season.

They don't make professional ballplayers like Harmon anymore. He exuded class. He played the game hard. He respected his opponents. He didn't need drugs to enhance his performance. He didn't get embroiled in salary disputes. And, most importantly, he understood what baseball fans meant to him and to the game. So he always had time for them.

Since his retirement, Killebrew has been a model Hall of Famer. He honors his commitments to speaking engagements and charity events. He signs autographs without expecting to be paid for it.

But the best memories are of Harmon launching towering drives into the seats during his 22-year major league career. Minnesota fans adored the slugger after he moved to our state along with the former Washington Senators franchise in 1961. He was our first big league baseball superstar.

He ranks 11th on the all-time home run list with 573. Eight times he hit more than 40 in a season.

The most magical season was 1969, when Killebrew was named the American League's most valuable player. He his 49 homers and drove in 140 runs, leading the Twins to the AL West championship.

We cherish all of the memories this great man provided.

Bemidji Pioneer