Harmon Killebrew felt he had a career worthy of baseball’s highest honor. At the time of his retirement, only Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson had more home runs.
In his first year on the Cooperstown ballot, Killebrew received 59.6% of the vote, well below the 75% threshold for election. He also fell short in the next two Hall of Fame elections.
In his fourth time on the ballot came in 1984. When the votes were tallied, Killebrew received 83.1%. The duty to inform Killebrew of his election fell on Jack Lang.
Known as “The Good News Man”, Lang served as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) from 1966-1988. The role entrusted Lang with counting Hall of Fame votes and notifying those who made it.
From Red Ruffing to Willie Stargell, every player voted in by the writers from ’66-’88 got the call from Cooperstown with Jack Lang on the other end of the phone.
In the collection is a letter from Killebrew thanking the baseball writers through Lang. It’s dated January 16, 1984, just one week after he received the good news.
Killebrew writes in part, “What a thrill to hear these words from you last week…It is the greatest thrill of my life and we look forward to being with you and the rest of my friends along with Don Drysdale and Luis Aparicio on August 12.”
The slugger signed his name at the bottom of the letter.
He was with the Royals? Did they exist at that time? Wasn’t it the KC Athletics?
It was the Royals. The end of his career and beginning of the new franchise. Technically, the Senators left Washington in 1960 and became the Twins. So, he really only played for two franchises.
My first major league game was in the old Griffith Stadium in DC – Wash Senators vs. KC A’s in 1959. I was ten years old. Harmon hit a walk-off off Dick Hall and became my baseball idol forever after that. I used to listen to the Twins on my transistor late at night under my bed covers – play by play – Ray Scott, Herb Carneal and Halsey Hall. I felt like I was in Heaven when the Twins pulled out a win. Not a lot of great pitching then except Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat, but plenty of homeruns – Killebrew, Allison and Rollins. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s – the great days of pure major league baseball.
In 1954 Harmon Killebrew was playing Emmett, Idaho in Payette. Harmon was 17 years old. He hit a home run so far over the fence it landed in a field. The pitcher looked at the catcher and said Is it. The catcher nodded his head and said it is. (Meaning over the fence)
Harmon was signed in the next several days by Washington Senators, later becoming the Minnesota Twins.
I know this because Harmon was my best friend and school friend. The pitcher was Lynn Mohler and later became my husband. We stayed friends always with Harm. He called us several days before he passed. He and Lynn are playing baseball together again, I am sure. ⚾️🙏❤️😥 I miss them both.
Jack Morris was in Flint, MI this past weekend at a Hot Stove event to raise funds for youth baseball in our area. He brought up how much he respected and admired Harmon Killebrew as a Twins Cities kid. Later, Morris got to play college ball with Harmon’s son at BYU. Getting to know Mr. Killebrew on personal level was a revelation because Jack said his baseball hero was an even better person. Awesome.