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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Harmon Killebrew

Eligible in 1981.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 09, 2006 at 07:27 PM | 82 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 09, 2006 at 07:32 PM (#2093078)
One of my all-time favorite baseball names. Pretty good player, too. ;-)
   2. DCW3 Posted: July 09, 2006 at 07:58 PM (#2093163)
I know misspelling it makes the name sound cooler, but there's only one "R" in "Killebrew"...
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 09, 2006 at 08:06 PM (#2093181)
Heh. I combined his nickname with his surname.

Thanks, DCW3!
   4. DavidFoss Posted: July 09, 2006 at 09:03 PM (#2093274)
Well, lets hope this formats correctly *crossing fingers*. Its a little study I did a couple of months ago in anticipation of Killebrew's candidacy.

Its been said that Killebrew was a great hitter without a position and he'd be a DH if he played today. Yet, somehow the Senators/Twins didn't just dump him at 1B and leave him there.

Yr   1B                   3B                LF              DH
59   Sievers             KILLER             Lemon
60   Bequer
/KILLER       Bertoia/KILLER     Lemon
61   KILLER              Tuttle             Lemon
62   Power               Rollins            KILLER
63   Power
(Mincher)      Rollins            KILLER
64   Allison
/Mincher     Rollins            KILLER
65   Mincher
(KILLER)     Rollins(KILLER)    Allison
66   Mincher
(KILLER)     KILLER(Rollins)    Hall/Allison
67   KILLER              Rollins
/Tovar      Allison
68   Reese
/KILLER        Tovar/Rollins      Allison(Tovar)
69   Reese/KILLER        KILLER/Quilici     Allison/GNettles
70   Reese
(KILLER)       KILLER(Thompson)   Holt/Alyea
71   Reese
/KILLER        Braun/KILLER       Tovar/Alyea
72   KILLER
/Reese        Soderholm/Braun    Brye/Tovar
73   Lis
/KILLER          Braun(Soderholm)   Holt/Hisle      Oliva
74   Kusick
/Holt(KILLERSoderholm          Braun/Hisle     Oliva(KILLER
   5. DavidFoss Posted: July 09, 2006 at 09:09 PM (#2093287)
Whew... that doesn't really look that bad!

... as I was saying...

The Senators/Twins usually had another guy who needed to play 1B instead of Harmon. Vic Power may have been a great defender, but he couldn't play anywhere else. I'm guessing that Mincher was a bigger liability than Killebrew in the field. Also, they struggled to find a place for Rich Reese to play in the late 60s which often shifted Killebrew to 3B. Interestingly, by the time the DH position was created, the Twins had a gimpy Oliva that they had to use there.

I'm guessing the defensive numbers for Killebrew are probably not all that hot, but the guy was a heckuva good sport to handle being moved around so much. No HOM-credit for being a good sport, but with his bat he probably won't need much defensive credit.
   6. sunnyday2 Posted: July 09, 2006 at 10:41 PM (#2093424)
Mincher was a platoon lefty. I don't think he was bad in the field, they just didn't think he could hit lefthanders.

Killebrew was certainly not a good defender but the fact that they could put him at 3B and get PAs for Mincher and Reese instead of Rollins et al was a plus.

It was locally controversial, though, when Oliva came up and they put Allison at 1B and kept Killebrew in LF. Allison was a vastly better OF but only a marginally better 1B. Allison was said to be peeved not when they moved him to 1B but when they moved him off of it after just 1 year.

The Twins had a whole succession of guys who had great years either as rookies or in their first full year--Rollins, Hall, Tovar, Reese, Holt, Braun-Brye (actually the same person), Hisle--but who never got any better, at least not as a Twin.

Twins fans didn't fully appreciate Killebrew--the fan faves were Oliva, Allison, Tovar. He was viewed as pretty one-dimensional, but in hindsight I view that as mere prejudice against HR hitting combined with ignorance of the value of the BB.
   7. DCW3 Posted: July 09, 2006 at 11:31 PM (#2093473)
Twins fans didn't fully appreciate Killebrew--the fan faves were Oliva, Allison, Tovar. He was viewed as pretty one-dimensional, but in hindsight I view that as mere prejudice against HR hitting combined with ignorance of the value of the BB.

But wasn't Allison just as much of a "three true outcomes" guy as Killebrew?
   8. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 01:24 AM (#2093620)
Allison was a much different player than Killebrew, in my mind...and I don't know what "three true outcomes" means.
   9. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 01:33 AM (#2093632)
But wasn't Allison just as much of a "three true outcomes" guy as Killebrew?

Good point, that explanation does work for Tony-O and Tovar, but not really for Allison. I'm too young for Allison, but I can attest to the Hrbekian level of popularity that he has among the older fans. Some of the charm with Allison (like Hrbek) may have been his more gregarious personality.

A classic quote from Wikipedia on Killebrew

Despite his "Killer" nickname and his powerful style of play, Killebrew was in fact a quiet, kind man who was not much given to the partying lifestyle enjoyed by his peers. Asked once what he liked to do for fun, Killebrew replied, "Well, I like to wash dishes, I guess."


By the time I knew Harmon, he was a broadcaster for the Twins in the 1980s. At an older age, that type of personality can become very endearing to fans and Harmon was considered an ambassador of the franchise as its first HOF-er in MN. On the other hand, that type of personality on a young man in his late-20s may come across as being pretty dull to 1960s sportswriters and perhaps they went elsewhere for good quotes at the end of each game.

We should double-check with sunny because he was around back then. sunny?
   10. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 01:36 AM (#2093633)
three true outcomes

A lot of HR's K's and BB's. A disproportionately low amount of balls in play.
   11. OCF Posted: July 10, 2006 at 01:55 AM (#2093657)
When I put Kaline #1 on my ballot last year, I called him "qualified for the HoM at the Heilmann/Waner level." Put Killebrew into that basket as well, along with Mize and Greenberg.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 10, 2006 at 01:56 AM (#2093658)
I actually saw Killebrew hit one of his first home runs, which would have been in the Summer of 1955, when he was a 19-year old Bonus Baby who couldn't be sent down to the minors because of the Bonus Baby rule at the time. It was a tremendous clout, well over 450 ft., and it landed only two or three rows from the top of the old Griffith Stadium bleachers. In the 50 years of that park, only Mickey Mantle ever cleared the bleachers, and the only other ball I ever saw hit that far up was by Elston Howard---in batting practice. Never saw any other home run to match it, and that was in well over 100 games I attended from 1952 to 1961.

Killebrew was wildly popular with Washington fans, because not only was he the perfect Aw, Shucks, Cal Ripken type (minus the fielding skills, of course), but he was also the first legitimate homegrown star player that Washington had seen since well before World War II. Seeing him blossom into a home run king in 1959 was like seeing a little girl whose birth you had witnessed blossom into a beauty queen. Of all the many reasons that Calvin Griffith was considered the Walter O'Malley of Washington, next to the loss of the team itself was the fact that D.C. fans knew that they were being cheated out of seeing Harmon Killebrew go to the Hall of Fame on their watch.

But glamorous? Hell, he was a chrome dome before he was 25.
   13. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 02:04 AM (#2093663)
But glamorous? Hell, he was a chrome dome before he was 25.

Yeah, all of the Twins had to go hatless on their 1961 Topps cards because of the franchise move. Not much left and he was only 25.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 10, 2006 at 02:14 AM (#2093676)
And I was being kind at that. He was actually pretty hirsuteless by the time he turned 21.
   15. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 02:26 AM (#2093690)
I wouldn't call Allison gregarious either but Killebrew was especially quiet. We didn't think much of it then. Pro athletes were not like they are today. Fran Tarkenton was the first more flamboyant type of player in Minnesota.

As to the 3 true outcomes, Allison had less of all 3.
   16. Ardo Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:22 AM (#2093769)
Killebrew never led the AL in OPS+, but from 1959-70 inclusive, he was in the top 5 ten times in twelve years. His ordered finishes look like this: 2-3-3-4-4-4-4-4-5-5.

Gibson #1 and Killebrew #2 are easy choices for my 1981 ballot.
   17. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:35 AM (#2093773)
from 1959-70 inclusive, he was in the top 5 ten times in twelve years

He was hurt the other two years. In 1965, he would have been 3rd, but he was 23 PA short of qualifying. In 1968, he was much further short of qualifying and would have been out of the top ten.

Speaking of 1968, it was his age 32 season and his career numbers at that point bore an uncanny resemblance to Ralph Kiner's age 32 numbers.

Killer & Kiner through age 32

Of course, Killebrew won the MVP the next season, followed it up with another great year in 1970 and a couple of decent-though-declining shoulder-type seasons in 1971-72 before his full decline set in. Kiner at age 32 was done.

Killer & Kiner after age 32
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 10, 2006 at 12:56 PM (#2093979)
And I was being kind at that. He was actually pretty hirsuteless by the time he turned 21.

I'm trying to think of others like that. Joel Youngblood and Steve Balboni went bald extremely quick.
   19. Guapo Posted: July 10, 2006 at 02:17 PM (#2094045)
It took Killebrew 4 shots to get into the HOF, even though he had the 5th most HRs in baseball history when he retired.

This was a long time ago, but when I was a kid I remember reading a little vignette in Sport Magazine (I think) back in the early '80s. The author was a HOF voter and he explained that he didn't vote for Killebrew the first few years that he was eligible because Harmon retired with a .256 average and struck out a lot.

Anyway, then one day the author spotted Killebrew in some public place, like a shopping mall. He said "Hi, Harmon." Killebrew responded with a big smile and a wave.

So the next year, the author voted for him (and Killebrew got elected).

Just thought I'd share that one with you to destroy any outstanding faith anybody out there might hold in HOF voters.
   20. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 10, 2006 at 02:31 PM (#2094063)
Bob Allison was a fan favorite because he ran around like the Tazmanian Devil. On the bases Bob was the AL version of Frank Robinson though obviously not quite as maniacal as Frank.

Though fans always claim they want their stars to be quiet and hard-working they rarely appreciate such players until they are gone.
   21. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:09 PM (#2094098)
This was a long time ago, but when I was a kid I remember reading a little vignette in Sport Magazine (I think) back in the early '80s. The author was a HOF voter and he explained that he didn't vote for Killebrew the first few years that he was eligible because Harmon retired with a .256 average and struck out a lot.

Anyway, then one day the author spotted Killebrew in some public place, like a shopping mall. He said "Hi, Harmon." Killebrew responded with a big smile and a wave.

So the next year, the author voted for him (and Killebrew got elected).

Just thought I'd share that one with you to destroy any outstanding faith anybody out there might hold in HOF voters.


I've seen other incredibly stupid reasoning techniques, such as Steve Jacobsen from Newsday deciding if Tom Seaver should be on his ballot because Tom didn't send him a card when he was sick.
   22. TomH Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:13 PM (#2094104)
Bill James went to some length in his Historical Abstract to justify rating Killebrew a nose above Rod Carew, in spite of the numbers not supporting it. I think it shows his preference for home runs being slightly more valuable than the Runs Created formulae deem them.
   23. DL from MN Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:16 PM (#2094106)
Harmon deserves special bonus points for "most legible signature". I recently had the chance to get my picture taken with him and he's got to be one of the most polite people I've ever met.

As a Twins fan I've had a chance to read quite a bit about Harmon over the years. He was quite upset about the contraction rumors several years ago. There are many people my dad's age that thought Harmon was their favorite player growing up.

As I run through the numbers it's clear he's not as good as Kaline but he's also clearly meeting the average standards.
   24. DL from MN Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:21 PM (#2094113)
It also appears that I would have had Santo ahead of Killer if they appeared on the same ballot, not much difference between them though. Why isn't Santo in the Hall of Fame again?
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:25 PM (#2094115)
Bill James went to some length in his Historical Abstract to justify rating Killebrew a nose above Rod Carew, in spite of the numbers not supporting it. I think it shows his preference for home runs being slightly more valuable than the Runs Created formulae deem them.

They seem very close to me, Tom. I don't know who I would pick as the better player.
   26. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:36 PM (#2094119)
Carew was a better athlete, probably coulda played more different sports and did more things well on the ball field. But Killebrew was clearly the more valuable of the two. Oliva and Puckett, at their peak, were probably also more valuable than Carew, but not as valuable as Harmon.

Just for fun (apropos of the Santo/Killebrew comment), here is where I had 1975-1990 newbies mixed among my backlog as of 1975. (There have been some changes since.)

Willie Mays 1979
Hank Aaron 1982
Frank Robinson 1982
Joe Morgan 1990
Hoyt Wilhelm 1978
Johnny Bench 1989
Carl Yastzemski 1989
Bob Gibson 1981

1. Dobie Moore--yes, #2 in '81 ahead of Harmon

Al Kaline 1980
Ron Santo 1980
Willie McCovey 1986
Gaylord Perry 1989
Dick Allen 1983
Harmon Killebrew 1981--so, yes, Kaline and Santo ahead of Killebrew; to me, McCovey is Killebrew's close comp and I could argue that Harmon was better (more consistent), but I won't
Ernie Banks 1977
Jim Palmer 1990
Roberto Clemente 1978

2. Ralph Kiner

Willie Stargell 1988
Ferguson Jenkins 1989

3. Rube Waddell
4. George Sisler

Brooks Robinson 1983
Reggie Smith 1988
Billy Williams 1982

5. Larry Doyle

Joe Torre 1983

6. Addie Joss

Bill Freehan 1982

7. Charley Jones
(7a. Red Ruffing)
8. Pete Browning
9. Joe Gordon

Orlando Cepeda 1980
Jim Bunning 1977--probably the biggest change since this effort in '75 is Bunning dropping below Marichal and Drysdale
Juan Marichal 1980

10. Willard Brown
(10a. Clark Griffith
11. Edd Roush
12. Vic Willis
(12a. Earl Averill
13. Jose Mendez

Frank Howard 1979

14. Minnie Minoso
(14a. Stan Hack
(15. Don Drysdale)
   27. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 03:57 PM (#2094150)
Its been said that Killebrew was a great hitter without a position and he'd be a DH if he played today.

It's been said, but it isn't accurate. Killebrew had zero range and a poor arm, but his hands were quite good. He wasn't a terrible third baseman, and he was entirely adequate at first base.

Vic Power may have been a great defender, but he couldn't play anywhere else.

I completely disagree. Power was such a great defender, and such a light hitter, that he was wasted at first base. It would have made a lot more sense for teams to deploy him as a super-sub, the way the Indians used him in 1958.
   28. DiggerP Posted: July 10, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2094164)
I'm not an active participant in this voting process, but I enjoy reading the discussion. It's a wonderful way to learn about some of these players.

But did someone say that Santo is a better candidate than Killebrew? Respectfully, that struck me as absurd. A quick review of their career stats reinforced my initial impression. At the risk of being a pushy jerk, can someone please explain that one to me?
   29. Mister High Standards Posted: July 10, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2094167)
Despite what I would guess are low scoring defensive metrics I would rate Killer a plus defender strickly do to the positional flexiability he afforded his teams. Thats real value that translates to wins. How many, I don't have a clue.
   30. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 04:31 PM (#2094188)
Despite what I would guess are low scoring defensive metrics I would rate Killer a plus defender strickly do to the positional flexiability he afforded his teams. Thats real value that translates to wins. How many, I don't have a clue.

Fully agree. While the wisdom of each individual decision can be questioned, the fact that Killebrew provided that kind of defensive flexibility is a major plus for him. I don't know exactly how big a deal this is, but it's by no means insignificant. Killebrew's willingness and ability to provide this stands in hugely stark contrast to that of his near-exact contemporary, Orlando Cepeda, who despite a better physical defensive toolkit than Killebrew, ####### and whined about playing third base or left field, and refused to put the work in to make himself adequate anywhere other than first base.
   31. DL from MN Posted: July 10, 2006 at 04:33 PM (#2094189)
Santo is .277 .362 .464 as an NL Gold Glove 3B. Killer is .256 .376 .509 in the AL as a mediocre 1B/3B/LF/DH in roughly the same number of ABs. Plus Santo put up his numbers in a shorter period of time, providing more value per season.
   32. Paul Wendt Posted: July 10, 2006 at 04:35 PM (#2094191)
Twins fans didn't fully appreciate Killebrew--the fan faves were Oliva, Allison, Tovar. He was viewed as pretty one-dimensional, but in hindsight I view that as mere prejudice against HR hitting combined with ignorance of the value of the BB.

He was a Senators star, like Camilo Pascual and no one else. a difference maker?

Killebrew was wildly popular with Washington fans, because not only was he the perfect Aw, Shucks, Cal Ripken type (minus the fielding skills, of course), but he was also the first legitimate homegrown star player that Washington had seen since well before World War II. Seeing him blossom into a home run king in 1959 was like seeing a little girl whose birth you had witnessed blossom into a beauty queen.

What about Pascual, blossoming into a CYA quality pitcher in 1959? ("shutout king" but only second in ERA, ERA+ and strikeouts).

Asked once what he liked to do for fun, Killebrew replied, "Well, I like to wash dishes, I guess."

Killebrew was from Idaho and Maris from North Dakota. And Terry Puhl was from Saskatchewan, same flamboyant personality iirc.

Some of the comments about personality aging well with the fans fit Brooks Robinson but I don't know anything about his status in the late 50s, early 60s.

Of all the many reasons that Calvin Griffith was considered the Walter O'Malley of Washington, next to the loss of the team itself was the fact that D.C. fans knew that they were being cheated out of seeing Harmon Killebrew go to the Hall of Fame on their watch.

Did anyone care that the team was finally mediocre again, likely to become good in the next few years and unlikely to become bad?
   33. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 05:01 PM (#2094211)
I completely disagree. Power was such a great defender, and such a light hitter, that he was wasted at first base

Well, I certainly wouldn't want Power's bat at 1B either. My only point was when Power & Killebrew were both in the line-up, that Power needed to play 1B and Killebrew was forced to play LF.
   34. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 05:05 PM (#2094214)
My only point was when Power & Killebrew were both in the line-up, that Power needed to play 1B and Killebrew was forced to play LF.

Assuming Power needed to be in the starting lineup -- a very questionable assumption, of course -- I wouldn't necessarily agree with that alignment. Power ran circles around Killebrew in range, and had a far better arm. Of course he was also a far superior fielder at 1B, but I'd have Power in LF and Killebrew at 1B.
   35. DavidFoss Posted: July 10, 2006 at 05:30 PM (#2094251)
Well, I agree with you that its extremely odd that Power was both:

-- On the short list of greatest fielding 1b-men ever
-- Right-handed

Why Power didn't spend more time elsewhere in the field is an extreme head-scratcher for me. I guess when I say that Power needed to play 1B, I mean that Mele thought he needed to play there. Personally, I would have either benched him, moved him to 2B, or not traded for him in the first place.
   36. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 05:38 PM (#2094263)
Actually Power's .421 SA was 4th among Twins' regulars in 1962 and the Twins finished in 2nd place. And the Twins had very little bench that year, though it is true that Don Mincher sat around quite a lot.

In '63, you could make a better case for Mincher, now 25, who improved at least incrementally over '62. You'd need his splits to really know and you'd need to know how many PAs Power got against righties. But in '63, ok, now Power's SA of .384 is next to worst among Twins' regulars just behind Zoilo Versalles and ahead of Bernie Allen. And anybody remember Johnny Goryl? He slugged .500 and .540 in just 101 games those two years and he played 2B and 3B.

(In 1964 Goryl played 58 games and slugged .175)

'62-'63 were the two very good years that Rich Rollins gave the Twins before a pretty sharp decline when he shoulda been going into his prime. But 3B was not an option for Killebrew in '62-'63.

But in '63 the Twins had options.

But not so much '62. And it was Power who lost his job when Tony Oliva came up in '64 (Lenny Green lost his to Jimmie Hall in '63).

But being a Twins fan those years, Power was very entertaining at 1B and Cal Griffith really liked that showmanship thing. Power was his kind of player.
   37. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 06:01 PM (#2094282)
Why Power didn't spend more time elsewhere in the field is an extreme head-scratcher for me.

But he did spend quite a bit of time elsewhere on the field: 139 games at 2B, 115 in the outfield (including 56 in CF), 89 games at 3B, and even 8 games at SS.

His predominant deployment at 1B is a function of his teams valuing 1B defense more than we do know (and more than they should have).

Personally, I would have either benched him, moved him to 2B, or not traded for him in the first place.

Me too, although as I say the most effective use of him probably would have been as a supersub, taking advantage of his versatility.
   38. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 10, 2006 at 06:04 PM (#2094287)
It's been said, but it isn't accurate. Killebrew had zero range and a poor arm, but his hands were quite good. He wasn't a terrible third baseman, and he was entirely adequate at first base.

I don't know about now, but he was in damn good shape even as a middle-aged man. That had to help his overall play in the field.
   39. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 06:10 PM (#2094295)
You'd need his splits to really know and you'd need to know how many PAs Power got against righties.

Well, thanks to Retrosheet, we have them! ;-)

Power in 1962:

vs RHP 552 ABs, 290/314/420
vs LHP 59 ABs, 288/333/424

Mincher in 1962:

vs RHP 113 ABs, 239/411/478
vs LHP 8 ABs, 250/333/625

Power in 1963:

vs RHP 435 ABs, 262/289/363
vs LHP 106 ABs, 302/333/472

Mincher in 1963:

vs RHP 194 ABs, 263/356/521
vs LHP 31 ABs, 226/324/516

The Twins were nuts. Trading Pedro Ramos for Power following 1961 (when Power had put up an 84 OPS+ in Cleveland) was nuts, and playing Power ahead of Mincher in both 1962 and 1963 was nuts.

Power's defensive skills were undoubtedly tremendous, but this was still nuts, nuts, nuts.
   40. Kyle S Posted: July 10, 2006 at 06:43 PM (#2094330)
BPro has killer with a 15 point edge in EqA over santo in roughly 500 more PA. I think that's around 20 batting wins. according to BP's fielding stats, santo makes it up (and more) with a gigantic 40 win (or so) advantage in fielding, and is worth about 20 wins more than killer.
   41. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 08:20 PM (#2094402)
I guess if you saw Mincher taking BP against a lefty, he musta not done very well. Because based on what he did under game conditions, you'da thought he could actually hit them. The Twins obviously didn't think so (39 PAs in 2 years!). But all those PAs Power got against right-handers really do boggle the mind. Like I said, Calvin was a sucker for a showman, and as a young fan I thought Power was great.
   42. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 08:38 PM (#2094415)
And here's the even weirder part: the Senators/Twins had traded for Mincher as part of the Roy Sievers deal back in April of 1960. He'd torn up the minors. They install him as the starter at 1B as a 22-year-old rookie, and he does OK: thru mid-May, he was hitting .262 with 2 homers and 11 walks in 65 at-bats.

Then he has an 0-for-7 slump, gets benched, and then sent back to the minors. So that the immortal Julio Becquer could get the starts at 1B against righthanders.

Then in 1961, again they give Mincher the starting 1B job out of spring training. Again, he does OK, not setting the world on fire but doing all right for a 23-year-old: this time in mid-May, he's hitting .227 with 5 homers and 18 walks in 66 at-bats. But then he goes into a 4-for-35 tailspin, and gets sent down at the end of May. The Twins go the rest of the year with Killebrew at 1B, so that 31-year-old center fielder Bill Tuttle can make the conversion to third base in mid-season. I'm not making this up.

And then, of course, they trade for Power and bury Mincher on the bench for 2 more seasons.

Mincher was never going to be a great player, but it's very likely he lost at least a couple of 35-homer, 85-walk kind of seasons, and possibly a 300+ HR career, to management ineptitude.
   43. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: July 10, 2006 at 08:47 PM (#2094421)
Then in 1961, again they give Mincher the starting 1B job out of spring training. Again, he does OK, not setting the world on fire but doing all right for a 23-year-old: this time in mid-May, he's hitting .227 with 5 homers and 18 walks in 66 at-bats. But then he goes into a 4-for-35 tailspin, and gets sent down at the end of May. The Twins go the rest of the year with Killebrew at 1B, so that 31-year-old center fielder Bill Tuttle can make the conversion to third base in mid-season. I'm not making this up.

And then, of course, they trade for Power and bury Mincher on the bench for 2 more seasons.

Mincher was never going to be a great player, but it's very likely he lost at least a couple of 35-homer, 85-walk kind of seasons, and possibly a 300+ HR career, to management ineptitude.


The 1960s Twins were a bit screwed up. I remember reading the chapter on them in Levitt/Armor's "Paths to Glory" where the authors (Levitt for that chapter) discuss why the team that seemed like it could've really emerged into a dynasty ended up a one-pennant wonder. Among others issues mentioned, the Twins also constantly jumped players all over the field from position to position. Looking at the position player chart at b-ref, it's really easy to miss the fact that Killebrew played 100+ games a year for them all decade long. Their position chart's like playing a game of hide-and-seek.
   44. JPWF13 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 08:57 PM (#2094430)
Mincher was never going to be a great player, but it's very likely he lost at least a couple of 35-homer, 85-walk kind of seasons, and possibly a 300+ HR career, to management ineptitude.


The era when Mincher played- the 60s, was very unkind to players of his type. For what it's worth I look at his BBREF top 10- he was a better player than everyone listed- a context adjusted list would look much different- it'd probably be tough to find guys with 127 career OPS+ whose playing time was so limited...
   45. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:05 PM (#2094439)
The era when Mincher played- the 60s, was very unkind to players of his type.

Well, it was a low-scoring era, but I don't know that it was particularly unkind to high-power, high-walk guys like Mincher. It wasn't real friendly to guys like Willie Davis or Tito Francona either.

And Mincher has a few things helping him: Metropolitan Stadium was a terrific HR park in the early 1960s, the best in baseball or something very close to it. And Mincher's OPS+ is helped by the fact that he was so strictly platooned.
   46. karlmagnus Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:17 PM (#2094450)
He and Hondo were the only respectable hitters on the hapless '71 Senators, and they were both darn good. The 2B on that team had an OPS+ of 49 -- I thought Ted W. was supposed to be good with hitters?
   47. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:22 PM (#2094456)
karl:

IIRC Ted got everyone pumped in '69 but by 1971 the team was turning or had already turned on him. I am pretty the "Underminer's Club" on the 'Nats was formed that season. Not pretty.......
   48. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:28 PM (#2094463)
Well, it was a low-scoring era, but I don't know that it was particularly unkind to high-power, high-walk guys like Mincher.

Bill James looked at this in either the Yellow or Green Abstract. He broke all players into 8-10 different types and looked at how they did when the strike zone was expanded in 1963. He found that about half of the walk/power guys adjusted and did fine, and the other half got taken to the wall.
   49. sunnyday2 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:30 PM (#2094464)
Levitt is a Minnesotan, BTW, so he knows what he's talking about with the Twinkies.
   50. JPWF13 Posted: July 10, 2006 at 09:35 PM (#2094469)
Well, it was a low-scoring era, but I don't know that it was particularly unkind to high-power, high-walk guys like Mincher.


Mincher was never going to be a high average hitter, but the 60s dropped him into the range .230s-.240s often enough that casual fans woudl simply look at that batting average and say he sucked without paying much attention to anyone else. What I meant was that his type was particularly likely to be regarded as unproductive while in fact he was productive.

Francona, for whatever reason, didn't just LOOK like he was playing badly during the mid 60s- he was playing badly.

Willie Davis, judging by his increased Ks and decreased (never high to begin with) walks from 63-68 was just murdered by the combination of the expanded strike zone and the high mound at Dodger Stadium.
   51. Steve Treder Posted: July 10, 2006 at 10:00 PM (#2094499)
What I meant was that his type was particularly likely to be regarded as unproductive while in fact he was productive.

Fair enough.

Francona, for whatever reason, didn't just LOOK like he was playing badly during the mid 60s- he was playing badly.

Sort of, although he was a productive bench player in 1964 and 1965. But I think Francona was the kind of work-the-count guy who got especially hindered by the bigger zone.
   52. rawagman Posted: July 11, 2006 at 01:14 PM (#2095173)
I was just looking at Killer's defensive stats on www.baseball-reference.com.

He was a roughly average defender at 1B. Horribly immobile in the OF, and less than sure-handed at 3B.

I remember that I used to consider Killebrew primarily as a 3B - I guess because his offensive numbers stick out more that way.

I think his bat more than makes up for any defensive shortcomings he displayed at the other positions (even those 12 games he played at 2B!!?!?)

As a sidenote, as a kid (15 or so years ago) I used to love buying old baseball cards. Loved the Topps '61 series. My prized possession was the Killer card. It's probably still somewhere at my folks' place.
   53. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 02:24 PM (#2095236)
(even those 12 games he played at 2B!!?!?)

Yup. Its hard to picture, but even Harmon was young once. :) Unfortunately, he wasn't allowed to play in the minors until 1956, so we don't have much data as to how well he played there.
   54. Steve Treder Posted: July 11, 2006 at 03:41 PM (#2095365)
less than sure-handed at 3B.

I strongly suspect a very high proportion of his 3B errors were on throws, not on fielding the ball. He had good hands, but his throwing was awkward and weak.

Unfortunately, he wasn't allowed to play in the minors until 1956, so we don't have much data as to how well he played there.

Killebrew in the minors:

1956, Class A: 249 AB, .325, 15 HR, 50 BB
1957, Class AA: 519 AB, .279, 29 HR, 70 BB
1958, Class AAA: 121 AB, .215, 2 HR, 18 BB
1958, Class AA: 299 AB, .308, 17 HR, 60 BB

He played almost exclusively at 3B in the minors, with a few games in the OF.
   55. rawagman Posted: July 11, 2006 at 03:47 PM (#2095375)
If Killebrew was a 3B in 60-61, that would explain why I always thought of him as such.
The power of baseball cards.

My girlfriend visited the US last April and I had her pick me up a few packs just to see what they look like now - is it just me, or are they smaller?
   56. jmac66 Posted: July 11, 2006 at 04:00 PM (#2095399)
My girlfriend visited the US last April and I had her pick me up a few packs just to see what they look like now - is it just me, or are they smaller?

what, girlfriends?

(mine is bigger than she used to be)

I'll always have an annoyance factor for the Killer, because he tied my boy Rocky for the HR lead in 1959 by hitting dingers in the last two games of the season

(actually both Harmon & Colavito went through a serious HR drought in September that year)
   57. sunnyday2 Posted: July 11, 2006 at 04:27 PM (#2095421)
One of my major pet peeves is a Red Sox fan who to this day whines about the fact that Killebrew hit a HR on the last day of the 1967 season to tie Yaz and deprive him of a "pure" triple crown. That is just plain greedy.
   58. Traderdave Posted: July 11, 2006 at 05:44 PM (#2095516)
I actually saw Killebrew hit one of his first home runs, which would have been in the Summer of 1955, when he was a 19-year old Bonus Baby who couldn't be sent down to the minors because of the Bonus Baby rule at the time. It was a tremendous clout, well over 450 ft., and it landed only two or three rows from the top of the old Griffith Stadium bleachers. In the 50 years of that park, only Mickey Mantle ever cleared the bleachers, and the only other ball I ever saw hit that far up was by Elston Howard---in batting practice. Never saw any other home run to match it, and that was in well over 100 games I attended from 1952 to 1961.

I heard a radio interview w/ Killebrew a couple of years ago in which he described what was probably this particular home run. The bench jockeys were razzing him about his Bonus Baby status while he was on deck. When he got to the batter's box the opposing catcher said something to the effect of: "Welcome to the big leagues, kid. We're gonna take it easy on you & throw you a fastball."

Killebrew, in his usual aw-shucks modesty, said that he hit that fastball for one of the longest homers ever in Griffith Stadium. Sounds like this was your homer, Andy.
   59. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 05:57 PM (#2095528)
Killebrew, in his usual aw-shucks modesty

Someone interviewed Killebrew in the 90s and they got to talking about the increase of HR's. The interviewer asked Harmon how many home runs he would hit if he played today. "Probably about 25" was his reply. The interviewer looked puzzled and said that many middle infielders were now hitting that many home runs. Harmon's reply was "You gotta remember, I'm fifty-eight years old."

Its also fun when the aw-shucks modesty turns on its head. :-)
   60. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:02 PM (#2095531)
one of the longest homers ever in Griffith Stadium

Harmon not only hit many home runs, but he also had "light tower" power. He's one of the names that's often mentioned when they talk about longest home runs in each park, or home runs that left the stadium. For example, I think he hit one of the longest homers in Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Unfortunately, many of these parks have been replaced so you don't hear his name tossed around anymore.

"Light tower" power alone isn't worthy of any credit here, but its fun to hear about.
   61. OCF Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:03 PM (#2095533)
That line - or something very much like it - can't have been original with Killebrew. I've heard it as a Ty Cobb line (now there's a different personality), and for all I know, Cobb stole the idea from someone before him.
   62. DL from MN Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:06 PM (#2095536)
Is that joke even funny anymore?
   63. yest Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:31 PM (#2095561)
I first heard the line in Dimmagio's name then Cobb's
   64. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:39 PM (#2095573)
Is that joke even funny anymore?

It was funny 25 years ago when I first read the anecdote about Lefty O'Doul saying it about Cobb. But it has lost it's flavor over the years.
   65. karlmagnus Posted: July 11, 2006 at 06:53 PM (#2095588)
I think Cobb's the origin of it, some time in the 1950s -- there's really nobody earlier you could have applied it to (well, maybe Honus, but it's not his style.) It's funnier applied to Cobb, because his determination was so overpowering that you can imagine the cantankerous SOB roaring out of the dugout at the age of 70 just to hit .340, or whatever the figure is.
   66. sunnyday2 Posted: July 11, 2006 at 08:17 PM (#2095682)
Well, with Cobb you can easily imagine him having the ego not only to say it but to believe it.

I'm pretty sure Harmon knows he wouldn't hit no 25 HR at age 58.

When I was a kid some people used to call him Harmless Harmon, in reference to his Ks. I mean people really thought it was a big big thing--some, as has been said here already, argued tht he wasn't a HoFer because he struck out too much.

When did it cease to be an embarrassment to strike out? Maybe it was when Bobby Bonds was the new king thereof, it seems that after while nobody really cared anymore. I know Reggie Jackson used to get razzed about 'em.
   67. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 11, 2006 at 08:24 PM (#2095687)
strikeouts still have stigma attached them. Remember a couple/few years back when Jerry Royster (I think) held Jose Hernandez out of the last few games of the season to "protect" Hernandez from the record? And didn't McKeon or Hurdle held Preston Wilson out of games for the same?
   68. Jose Canusee Posted: July 11, 2006 at 08:41 PM (#2095700)
Is that joke even funny anymore?
I am waiting to hear it from Julio Franco. Glad the topic got back to HK instead of Don Mincher, whom I once met as the GM of the Huntsville Stars. Killebrew, Frank Howard, and Boog Powell are all guys I kinda blended together from early childhood and don't remember seeing play.
   69. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 08:53 PM (#2095707)
Is that joke even funny anymore?

OK... I hear the crickets chirping. :-)

I know old jokes/anecdotes aren't really funny anymore, but thought it might be interesting to non-Twins fans. You know, like the one about Joe Mauer getting kicked out of t-ball at age four for hitting the ball too hard. Many Twins fans are sick of that story, but it might be new to some people. I didn't know the anecdote above was a cheap variant of one that's been reused over and over for generations.
   70. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 08:56 PM (#2095713)
OK... here's another try at a Killebrew anecdote. From the old Ron Luciano umpire/comedy books a story about how Ron managed to get Harmon picked off of second base. (copied from another website, not one of his books)

Killebrew was playing his last season as a Kansas City Royal in 1975. Ron was umpiring at second base. Killebrew hit a line drive and managed to get to second. Ron was complimenting Killebrew, and Harmon stepped off second and walked toward Ron so he could hear him. Just then, the pitcher threw the ball to the shortstop, who calmly approached Killebrew. Harmon had his back to the shortstop, so he didn't see it coming until it was too late. Harmon said to Ron, "I gotta tell you, I don't want to go back to the dugout. How'm I going to explain this one"? Killebrew wanted to know if Ron would pay half if manager Whitey Herzog fined him. Ron said no.


I actually searched retrosheet for this and couldn't find it. Maybe someone else would have better luck.
   71. John M. Perkins Posted: July 11, 2006 at 09:04 PM (#2095718)
My hero, boyhood to age 50 and beyond. I have a shrine to Killebrew at home.

Morman. The vet Killebrew became the buddy of youngster Bert Blyleven on road trips because Harmon didn't drink and Bert was too young.

I've met him three times in his roll as spokesman for hospice care. A true gentleman who only got his dander up on Blyleven not being in the HoF.

The hospice charity thing is why there's so much Killebrew memorabilia out every year in competing card sets.
   72. sunnyday2 Posted: July 11, 2006 at 09:20 PM (#2095741)
I just read that Mauer once struck out in high school--once. Only once. His entire high school career. One time.
   73. Guapo Posted: July 11, 2006 at 09:26 PM (#2095746)
Killebrew was playing his last season as a Kansas City Royal in 1975. Ron was umpiring at second base. Killebrew hit a line drive and managed to get to second. Ron was complimenting Killebrew, and Harmon stepped off second and walked toward Ron so he could hear him. Just then, the pitcher threw the ball to the shortstop, who calmly approached Killebrew. Harmon had his back to the shortstop, so he didn't see it coming until it was too late. Harmon said to Ron, "I gotta tell you, I don't want to go back to the dugout. How'm I going to explain this one"? Killebrew wanted to know if Ron would pay half if manager Whitey Herzog fined him. Ron said no.


Looks like a match
   74. DavidFoss Posted: July 11, 2006 at 09:31 PM (#2095750)
Thanks Guapo! Wow... that was his last hit, too. (He walked one more time in the next two games).
   75. DL from MN Posted: July 11, 2006 at 10:44 PM (#2095799)
Here's the Mauer story:

http://citypages.com/databank/27/1335/article14491.asp
   76. OCF Posted: July 12, 2006 at 12:06 AM (#2095850)
When did it cease to be an embarrassment to strike out? Maybe it was when Bobby Bonds was the new king thereof, it seems that after while nobody really cared anymore. I know Reggie Jackson used to get razzed about 'em.

People were aware, in vague general terms, of the relationship between strikeouts and power - that most of the guys with lots of K's were also serious power hitters. We'll get to Lou Brock in a few "years". He struck out A LOT (in counting rather than percentage terms - Brock always had an enormous number of AB) - and what people noticed and commented on was that he struck out a lot without even being a power hitter.

And it still matters, of course - Dr. Chaleeko mentioned Jose Hernandez and the record. It's really quite amazing that Bonds's (Bobby's, that is) record lasted as long as it did. And how do the casual fans you know percieve the skills of Adam Dunn?
   77. Paul Wendt Posted: July 13, 2006 at 03:48 AM (#2097281)
Guapo:
Looks like a match
DavidFoss:
Thanks Guapo! Wow... that was his last hit, too. (He walked one more time in the next two games).


There are thankless, low-paying jobs for such people.


About strikeouts,
it still matters, of course -

Yes, it matters, especially the all-time season record, of course. More than one player has been saved by judicious resting if not blatant benching. Same as losing 20 games in a season, which has been done many times, all-time.

On the other hand, I have my doubts about those AL fans in sunny old Minnesota. What did all the kids think of Mickey Mantle?


--
Where was it illegal for Blyleven and other 19-20 year olds to buy a drink? Pit and Phi (NL). Was it common? Of course, the story doesn't say that Harmon was Bert's buddy in every city.
Did Bert grow up in the land of the free? What a pain it must be to immigrate from someplace like the Netherlands after childhood.
   78. sunnyday2 Posted: July 13, 2006 at 03:54 AM (#2097285)
Actually we loved Mickey. We weren't as aware of his K's as Killebrew's.
   79. Howie Menckel Posted: July 19, 2006 at 02:22 AM (#2104196)
Twins fans: I vaguely remember this one as a kid.

Someone asked about why Rod Carew didn't steal home more often, or maybe in a particular instance when Killebrew was batting. Anyway, if you guys are too young to remember big Harmon, he looked like the Hulk compared to the scrawny other guys around.

So supposedly the answer was this ditty about what might happen if Carew tried it:

"There goes Carew - lined to left, by Killebew."
   80. Howie Menckel Posted: July 19, 2006 at 02:41 AM (#2104212)
or by 'KillebRew'.


sigh
   81. DavidFoss Posted: July 19, 2006 at 04:57 AM (#2104353)
Actually we loved Mickey. We weren't as aware of his K's as Killebrew's.

I just noticed that Harmon briefly held the single-season Strikeout record. He held it for a year in 1962 between Jake Wood and Bill Nicholson.

Mickey would grab the career mark in 1964, but the career K mark has historical been held by a better player (Ruth/Mantle/Stargell/ReJackson) than the single season mark (VDimaggio/JLemon/JWood/Killebrew/Nicholson/Bonds/Dunn).
   82. DCW3 Posted: July 19, 2006 at 08:40 AM (#2104420)
I just noticed that Harmon briefly held the single-season Strikeout record. He held it for a year in 1962 between Jake Wood and Bill Nicholson.

And he finished third in the MVP vote that year--which is actually far higher that he probably deserved to finish--so it doesn't look like there was that much of a stigma attached to the strikeouts back then.

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