R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew and Thanks for the Bat

When Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew passed away at 74,  it brought back a lot of little league baseball memories.

His name was on my grade school baseball bat. And you don’t forget important things like that.

Most guys swung 31 or 32 inch bats signed by Hank Aaron or Carl Yastremski.

Not me.  My 27-inch “Louisville Slugger”, autographed by Harmon, was perfect for my swing. I wear an artificial left arm, so I couldn’t follow through.  I needed a short bat to “chop” at the ball.


No, I was never going to be a big hitter like Hammerin’ Harmon, who belted 573 homers in 22 seasons. But he was slow and only hit a career .256.

But yours truly almost always got on base, for a couple of reasons.

First, when I was crouched in a batting stance, my strike zone must have been about two inches, so I drew a lot of walks.

Second, even though I couldn’t park it, I could usually crack a solid grounder into the gap.  And I was fast as lightning.

“Safe!” the first base umpire would usually shout. And before the first baseman or pitcher could react, I’d slide safely into second. Or third on an overthrow.  Maybe even home.

I just loved to steal.

My Cleveland Cougars grade school team won the city championship in football when I was a sixth grader, but I don’t think we ever did much in baseball.

We didn’t have anyone who could throw smoke.  And back then, no 12-year-old in the universe could throw a curve.

Coaches said if you threw a curve ball while your were still growing, your arm would fall off.

I wish they’d told that to Gary Harper.  A lot of my bad baseball memories  are Harper-related.

As the lead-off batter, my job was to scope out the opposing pitcher and get on base. No problem.

Unless Harper was on the mound, throwing his stupid curve ball.

Honestly, I still remember diving into the dirt to keep a Harper pitch from hitting me right in the ear hole, only to hear the ump scream “steee-rike.”

I couldn’t believe it. No way that pitch could’ve been in the strike zone! Or the next one. Or the next one.

But there I was. Back in the dugout on a called strike out. I never even got to take a cut.

I very much wanted to use my Harmon Killebrew-autographed bat to remove the notorious smirk from Gary Harper’s face.

Fifty-plus years later, I still have my baseball memories and my Louisville Slugger. Sort of.

In high school, I cut the bat down to about 18 inches long and covered it with black electrical tape. I kept it under the front seat in my car. Just in case I should ever, you know, find Gary Harper.

Kidding.  Gary grew up to be a very nice guy.

That cut-down bat still rests next to my nightstand. Before writing this, I  picked it up to see if the “7” is still visible on the base.  It is.  And I took a few cuts.

Rest in Peace Harmon. And thanks for the bat.

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2 Responses to “R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew and Thanks for the Bat”

  1. Kris says:

    Babe?

    You just have a lovely way about you when you settle into a story from your past.

    I just love this.

    Although, what the hell were you doing in high school that required a duct-taped weapon?

    Hmmmm.

    • hams says:

      Being on THIS side of the past is way better than being IN the past, as you would well appreciate. And a police officer once asked me exactly that question about the duct-taped bat. My top-of-mind answer was not politically correct, but he let me go. Whew!

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