Harmon Killebrew was born on Monday, June 29, 1936, in Payette, Idaho. Killebrew was 17 years old when he broke into the big leagues on June 23, 1954, with the Washington Senators. His biographical data, year-by-year hitting stats, fielding stats, pitching stats (where applicable), career totals, uniform numbers, salary data and miscellaneous items-of-interest are presented by Baseball Almanac on this comprehensive Harmon Killebrew baseball stats page.
"If ever anyone wielded a blunt instrument at home plate, it was Harmon Killebrew. There was nothing subtle about the Idaho strongboy: it was always his intention to mash a pitched ball as hard and as far as he could." - Donald Honig in The Power Hitters (Gramercy Publishing, 04/04/1993, Page 174) [ Harmon Killebrew Quotes ]
Harmon "The Killer" Killebrew Autograph on a 2005 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia (#14/25)
Harmon Killebrew Pitching Stats
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Harmon Killebrew Hitting Stats
Harmon Killebrew Fielding Stats
Harmon Killebrew Miscellaneous Stats
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Harmon Killebrew Miscellaneous Items of Interest
Did you know that on August 3, 1962 , Harmon "The Killer" Killebrew became the first slugger in baseball history to hit a home run baseball over the left field roof at Tiger Stadium? Fourth inning, Rich Rollins was on first base, one man was out, Tigers were ahead 3-0, when Killebrew absolutely crushed a Jim Bunning Frank Howard , Cecil Fielder & Mark McGwire ) to ever clear Tiger Stadium's roof.
Did you know that Harmon Killebrew set a American League record for most consecutive games with a home run against the same team, punishing the Kansas City Royals in nine straight games during the 1961 season? [ Harmon Killebrew 1961 Game by Game Batting Logs ] Do you know who holds the National League record? [ Answer ]
Did you know that when Harmon Killebrew retired, he had hit the most home runs, by a right-handed hitter, in the American League? Do you know what slugger holds that record today? [ Answer ]
In 1959, Baltimore Orioles Manager Paul Richards said, "Killebrew can knock the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone." A few years later Reggie Jackson said, "If Harmon Killebrew isn't the league's best player, I've never seen one. He's one of the greatest of all time." Let's take a detailed look at The Killer's playing career:
Harmon Killebrew: The Washington Senator
Killebrew signed his contract under Major League Baseball (MLB)'s Bonus Rule, which required that he spend two full seasons on the major league roster. Making his major league debut on June 23, 1954 , at the age of 17, Killebrew was called on to pinch run for Clyde Vollmer , who had been hit by a pitch, with the bases loaded, by Chicago White Sox starter Jack Harshman while pinch hitting for Senators reliever Chuck Stobbs .
After three more pinch running appearances, then two pinch-hitting appearances, Killebrew made his first start in the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics on August 23, 1954 , hitting two singles and a double as the Senators won the game, 103.
A year and one day after making his major league debut, Killebrew hit his first major league home run on June 24, 1955 , in the fifth inning off Detroit Tigers starter Billy Hoeft , five days shy of his 19th birthday. In the New York Times ( link ), Killebrew recalled the moment, " Frank House was the catcher. When I came to the plate, he said, 'Kid, were going to throw you a fastball.' I didnt know whether to believe him or not. I hit it out. It was one of the longest home runs I ever hit. As I crossed the plate, House said, 'That's the last time I ever tell you what pitch is coming.'"
Killebrew's bonus period expired in 1956, the Senators sent him down to their minor league affiliate in Charlotte, but Harmon returned to the majors in early May after being forced into action when regular second baseman Pete Runnels was injured. Killebrew seized the moment, hit two home runs in a game on May 29, 1956 , including only the second ball ever hit over a wire barrier in Memorial Stadium's center field, but he also had a .115 batting average through June 16, and as a result was sent back to Charlotte; finishing the season there with a .325 batting average and 15 home runs in 70 games played.
Killebrew spent most of the 1957 season with the Southern Association's Chattanooga Lookouts, where he hit a league-high 29 home runs with 101 RBIs and was named to the All-Star Game. While in Chattanooga, Killebrew became the only player to hit a home run over the center field wall at Engel Stadium, 471 feet from home plate. He was brought back up with the September roster expansion, appeared in 9 games, hit two home runs, and batted .290.
In 1958, Killebrew was briefly promoted to Indianapolis of the American Association, but he struggled and was sent back to Chattanooga for most of the season. Killebrew finished the season with 38 games played in Indianapolis and 86 in Chattanooga, where he hit .308 with 17 home runs. Another year, another September call-up, more struggles though, 10 games, 1 home run, a .172 average.
Senators owner Calvin Griffith traded the 32-year-old Eddie Yost to the Detroit Tigers on December 6, 1958, and Killebrew became the starting third baseman. From May 1 to May 17, Killebrew had five multi-home run games and his first five-RBI game on May 12. With 28 home runs by mid-season, he started the first 1959 All-Star Game and was a reserve in the second All-Star Game played that same year.
Killebrew attracted so much attention with his home runs, that he was actually visited by President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 29, 1959 , Harmon went 2-4 at the plate including a third inning home run for the sitting President off Bill Monbouquette . Killebrew finished the season with 42 home runs to tie for the American League lead; it also tied the Senator's single-season record set by his teammate Roy Sievers two years earlier.
Killebrew was bothered by a couple of injuries in 1960: In March, he had surgery for nasal irritation and a recurring hamstring injury caused him to miss most of May. After those incidents, he remained in the lineup for the rest of the season, finishing the year with 31 home runs in 124 games. Killebrew's return and blasts did little to improve the Senators' record, as they finished in the second division of the American League every year he played for Washington, including four years in last place. Following the 1960 season, the Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins.
Harmon Killebrew: The Minnesota Twin
For the franchise's first year in Minnesota, Killebrew was named team captain by manager Cookie Lavagetto . He responded by hitting 46 home runs, breaking the franchise record he had tied two years earlier. Among his other accomplishments over the course of the season, Killebrew accumulated a team-leading 122 RBIs, achieved a career-best batting average of .288 and had a slugging percentage of over .600 for the only time in his career. In addition, he had a career-high seven triples, tying for the team lead, and led his team in runs, total bases and walks.
On June 12, 1961 , Killebrew had the only five-hit game of his career in a losing effort by the Twins. Killebrew was named to both 1961 All-Star Games . He did not play in the second game, but in the first game, he hit a pinch hit home run in the sixth inning.
After the season ended, Killebrew took part in a home run hitting contest with Jim Gentile and Roger Maris , whose 61 home runs that year broke the single-season record; Killebrew hit 20 to win the contest.
Killebrew moved to left field in 1962, where he started off the season slowly. He hit under .200 in both April and June, and because of this Killebrew was not selected to play in either 1962 All-Star Game , the last season he was not named an All-Star before 1972.
On June 18, 1962 , in a game against the Cleveland Indians, Killebrew and Bob Allison became the first teammates since 1890 to hit grand slams in the same inning as the Twins scored 11 runs in the first.. The slow start was officially over.
Over the course of the season, Killebrew hit 48 home runs, 126 RBIs, and had 107 walks, all career highs at the time. No one else in the junior circuit managed even 40 home runs and he also led the league in RBIs. Killebrew's 48 home runs also broke the franchise record for the second year in a row.
Killebrew's efforts were rewarded in 1963 when he agreed to a $40,000 contract, but started the season off slowly again, missing the second half of April and early May due to a right knee injury that was slow to heal. Killebrew returned strong though yet again and on September 21, 1963 , Harmon hit three home runs in a game for the only time in his career in the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.
Killebrew finished the season with a .258 batting average, 45 home runs, and 96 RBI, and led the league in home runs and slugging percentage (.555). He had surgery on that troublesome right knee after the season ended.
The off-field knee surgery was a success, but it still necessitated a move to the infield in 1964 (and for or the remainder of his career, he appeared in only 19 additional games in the outfield after that). Killebrew finished the 1964 season with a .270 batting average and 49 home runs - his third consecutive home run title .
The Twins won the American League pennant during the 1965 season. On July 11, the day before the All-Star break, the defending AL champion Yankees had a one-run lead over the Twins going into the bottom of the 9th inning, but Killebrew hit a two-run home run for the win - the race was on.
Two days later, Killebrew started the All-Star Game at his home field, Metropolitan Stadium, and hit a game-tying two-run home run, erasing what had been a 50 National League lead. Elected to play first base on his fifth All-Star team, Killebrew became the first player in All-Star game history to be elected at three different positions, having previously been selected to play third base in 1959 and 1961 , then left field in ( 1963 and 1964 .
Killebrew drove in the tying or winning run seven times in 1965 before suffering an injury on August 2nd . During a game against the Orioles, Twins third baseman Rich Rollins made a bad throw to first and while trying to save the play, Killebrew collided with the runner and dislocated his elbow, putting him out of action until mid-September.
Despite his absence, the Twins had a win-loss record of 2819 and even extended their first place lead. Killebrew ended the regular season with 25 home runs and 75 RBI. In the 1965 World Series Killebrew and Zoilo Versalles led the Twins with .286 batting averages, and Killebrew hit a home run off Don Drysdale in Game 4 , but Minnesota was shut out in three games and the Dodgers won the series in seven.
At the start of the 1966 season, Killebrew scored few home runs; halfway through May, he had only hit two home runs, his lowest total at that point of a season since 1960, when he had missed the first two months of the season. He later increased his tally to 39 and finished the season with a .281 batting average and 110 RBIs. He led the AL with 103 walks and finished 4th in Most Valuable Player Award voting to Frank Robinson , Brooks Robinson , and Boog Powell .
During the 1967 season, Killebrew showed - yet again - his ability to hit long home runs when, on June 3, 1967 , he struck the longest home run recorded at Metropolitan Stadium, a shot off Lew Burdette in the 4th inning that landed in the second deck of the bleachers.
The Twins, led by Killebrew, were in the pennant race throughout the season, and had a one-game lead as the final two games of the season began against the Boston Red Sox. Having to win only once to clinch the pennant, Killebrew hit a home run in the first game and recorded two hits in each game, but Boston won twice and Minnesota finished in a second place tie with the Detroit Tigers. Killebrew finished the season with a .269 batting average and 113 RBIs, and led the AL with 44 home runs and 131 walks. He also finished a distant second in MVP voting to Boston's Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski .
Killebrew started the 1968 season hitting below .200 in both May and June and his average stood at .204 with 13 home runs going into the all-star break. Even so, he was selected as the starting first baseman in the All-Star Game and Killebrew stated that, owing to his poor start, he was "surprised" and "embarrassed" by the selection. In the All-Star Game itself, in the third inning he stretched for a ball thrown by shortstop Jim Fregosi and his foot slipped and he did the splits, rupturing his left medial hamstring. He was carried from the field by a stretcher. At the time, the injury was considered career-threatening, but after missing about six weeks, he returned to limited action in September.
After enduring seven months of rehabilitation for his injury, Killebrew remained in pain, but rebounded to make 1969 memorable. On July 5, 1969, Killebrew set a career-high with six RBIs in a game against the Oakland Athletics. That personal best lasted barely two months: on September 7 he hit a three-run home run and a grand slam for seven RBIs, all in the first two innings, to defeat the Athletics again. Killebrew led the best offense in the league and rookie manager Billy Martin's Twins won the new American League West division as a result.
How memorable was '69? Killebrew set career highs in RBIs, runs, walks and on-base percentage, tied his career high with 49 home runs, and even registered eight of his 19 career stolen bases, en route to winning his only Most Valuable Player Award . He led the AL in home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, walks, and intentional walks and knocked in the winning run 20 times while playing in all 162 games.
In the 1969 American League Championship Series, the Baltimore Orioles used their pitching staff, the best in the league, to defeat Minnesota and win the series three games to none. Baltimore avoided Killebrew by walking him six times in the three games to avoid pitching to him, which was as many times as they walked the rest of the Twins team.
After his MVP season, Killebrew signed a new contract with the Twins worth $90,000. He was set to lead a team that had undergone a lot of change; Killebrew was one of only four Twins remaining from the 1965 pennant-winning club. He spent most of the season's first half continuing his success, and found Baltimore's Brooks Robinson rivalling him for the third base spot during the All-Star voting process; the two were neck-and-neck throughout. He continued his success through the second half of the year, and at season's end Killebrew had hit 41 home runs with 113 RBIs and finished third in MVP voting behind teammate Tony Oliva and Baltimore's Boog Powell , who won the award. The Twins again faced Powell and the Orioles in the 1970 American League Championship Series, a rematch of the previous season. The Twins were again swept, though Killebrew's performance was notable, he hit two home runs in three games.
Killebrew reached the 40 home runs for the final time in 1970 and also made his last appearance in the postseason. His contract continued to grow in value though, and before the 1971 season began he was awarded the first $100,000 contract in Twins' history.
Killebrew appeared in his last All-Star Game in 1971, hitting a two-run home run off Ferguson Jenkins to provide the margin of victory for the AL. He finished the season with a .254 batting average, 114 walks, 119 RBI, the latter two of which led the league, and 28 home runs. Killebrew hit his 498th home run on June 22, 1971, but a sprained right toe made his run to milestone number 500 a slow one. He hit number 499 more than a month later and finally hit number 500 off a Mike Cuellar slow curveball in the first inning of an August 10 home game; at the time, he was the 10th player in history to hit 500 home runs . He then wasted no time in hitting number 501, knocking a Cuellar fastball over the fences later in the same game.
In 1972, Killebrew showed signs of slowing down. He missed his first All-Star Game since 1962, but instead of expressing disappointment in his streak ending, he noted that Twins shortstop Danny Thompson should have had the opportunity to play instead; Thompson mentioned the same thing about Killebrew.
Despite not appearing in the Midsummer Classic, Killebrew's home run total continued to climb, and by the end of July he had Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle career marks in his sights; he went on to pass both in August. Killebrew finished the season with a .231 batting average, 26 home runs, and 74 RBIs.
There were questions about Killebrew's health as the 1973 season began, as he had surgery twice during the offseason to fix leg problems. He played through the first half of the season, but an injury to his left knee on June 25 sidelined him. A month later, the injury had not cleared up, and he underwent surgery to remove some torn cartilage; he did not return to the lineup until mid-September. Killebrew only played in 69 games that season, hitting five home runs.
Fully recovered (as one can be with a half-dozen surgeries) for the 1974 season, Killebrew made his mark early on, hitting two home runs in a May 5 match against the Detroit Tigers; the second was career home run number 550. In his honor, the Twins held a Harmon Killebrew Day in August, where it was announced that they would retire his number; Killebrew responded by leading the Twins to a 54 victory over the Orioles. He finished the season with a .222 batting average, 13 home runs, and 54 RBIs.
In December 1974, he was given the option of staying with the Twins as a coach and batting instructor, managing the AAA Tacoma Twins, or being released. He chose to be released, ending his 21-season tenure with the Twins.
Harmon Killebrew: The Kansas City Royal
On January 24, 1975, eight days after being released by the Twins, Killebrew signed a one-year $125,000 contract with the Kansas City Royals. During his return to Minnesota, the Twins formally retired his #3 jersey on May 4, 1975 . In that game, Killebrew hit a home run against his former teammates and received a standing ovation from the crowd. In 106 games with the Royals, he had a batting average of .199, 14 home runs, 44 RBIs, and his final home run on September 18, 1975 .
Major League Baseball Logo | Harmon Killebrew | Image by Business Insider
The original Major League Baseball logo was created by Jerry Dior, a graphic designer at Sandgren & Murtha. In 1968, Major League Baseball commissioned them to design an original logo which he did, but shortly after its creation, debate began to appear about Harmon Killebrew serving as the original model. In the Wall Street Journal (David Davis, 10/23/2008, 'The Man Behind the MLB Logo', link ), Dior said, "That's completely untrue. It's not Harmon Killebrew. It's not anyone in particular." Years later the debate continues, in Business Insider (05/17/2011, 'Remembering Harmon Killebrew, The Inspiration For The MLB Logo', link ), columnist Corey Nachman wrote, "A silhouette of the Hall-of-Fame slugger was the inspiration for the logo for the entirety major leagues. It's a fitting distinction for a man who epitomized everything that was great about the game of baseball." Share your thoughts / research / beliefs with us on Baseball Fever .