Harmon Killebrew, who hit 573 home runs for the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, died of cancer yesterday at age 74.
As Thomas Boswell writes in today's Washington Post, Killebrew was always known for his gracious demeanor, his great strength and his self-discipline on and off the field.
As the autograph above attests, he also had beautiful handwriting. Killebrew wrote this note at the request of Sports Illustrated baseball writer Steve Wulf, who knew of my affection for the old Senators, who moved to Texas to become the Rangers in 1970, one step removed from Killebrew's old, old Senators, who moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961.
Killebrew was born and grew up in Payette, Idaho. He said he got his great strength from hustling 10-gallon milk cans in his summers as a young man. Presumably there was a grammar school teacher in Payette who taught him his elegant hand.
In a fond obituary in today's Minneapolis StarTribune, La Velle E. Neale III writes that "former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter remembered Killebrew as a mentor, both on and off the field. He said Killebrew looked at his autograph several years ago and deemed it to be illegible. 'I had a doctor's signature,' said Hunter, now with the Los Angeles Angels. 'I had a 'T' and an 'I' and a dot-dot. He said, "What the hell is this?" Killebrew told Hunter that if kids found that baseball, they would start throwing it around the park because they couldn't read the signature.' "