Baseball lost Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew this morning. This is of particular local interest in the Northern Plains (aka Twins country) because Killebrew was a local fixture here for many years. He as statue in front of the new Twins Stadium. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a terrific article and photo essay on Killebrew here.
Killebrew had been battling cancer for a while. Ironically, he had been vocal proponent of Hospice care for several years before that. And, he died in hospice.
I met him once by chance in an Airport. I had no idea who he was until after he walked away and someone told me. For someone whose nickname was "Killer' Killebrew, he was a completely unassuming man, and actually pretty small by modern professional behemoth athlete standards. (Official stats say he was 5'11 and 220 lbs in his prime, but looking at photos of him in his playing days, I think that was being pretty generous.) He largely played in the era before modern weightlifting and performance enhancing drugs.
I find this makes his prolific home run stats all the more interesting. I think major sports have lost something in the rush to create the biggest, strongest players to have ever walked the earth. Certainly strength is an advantage, but in the race to do that, I think many smaller players with copious amounts of natural skill are overlooked. I'll take skill over brute bulk any day. Certainly Killebrew hit massive home runs all the time, and he never lifted a barbell in his professional life. And coincidentally, no one questions that he should be in the hall of fame, unlike so many other steroid-era hulks.
Modesty and sheer talent...you don't see that too often anymore.
Here's to you, Mr. Killebrew.