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Harmon Killebrew On David Letterman!?

With the appearance of Joe Mauer last week on Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of another episode of a famous Twin who appeared on late ni...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remembering: Bob Allison, 1961-1970

Among the original Washington Senators players to become part of the new Minnesota Twins of Minneapolis/St. Paul, big Bob Allison from Raytown, Kansas, was the stellar outfielder-first baseman of the franchise from 1958 through 1970. After starring in football and baseball at the University of Kansas, he signed with the Senators organization in 1955, and spent parts of four seasons in the minors. He was the American League Rookie of The Year Award in 1959, in addition to winning the Sporting News Rookie of The Year. You can read your eyeballs out about that by going to Page 3 and Page 4 from the September 23, 1959 TSN issue.

'59 was also the same year his friend and teammate Harmon Killebrew won his first league home run championship, marking the beginning of their tenure as the team's power duo. It was also the year Alaska and Hawaii were awarded statehood, The Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly died tragically in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield, and the year that scandal rocked the famous game show "Twenty-One."

An all-American, much-admired guy by his teammates, he played with a tight end's mentality. Between him and Frank Robinson, he spooked the Father, Son and Holy Ghost out of many an infielder in the '60's with his habit of barreling hard into second in the attempt to break up the double play. That all-out, rough and tumble style of play would eventually wear him down in his mid to late twenties, making him more succeptible to injuries - as would be the case with Gary Gaetti in a later Twins era.

Not to digress...

 As a young player (24), he compared favorably with Frank Thomas and Jose Cruz at a similar stages of their careers. His breakout season of '59 saw him produce 30 HR, 18 2B, 9 3B, 85 RBI, 83 runs, and 13 SB while batting .261. Over his career his offensive line puts him in a category including the likes of Roger Maris, Danny Tartabull, J.D. Drew, Jesse BarfieldJeff Burroughs and Jay Buhner.

Bob was a super guy, willing to do his part for charities.

 He had a powerful, deadly throwing arm, racking up double figure totals in outfield assists four times during his career. He had excellent range. His best, overall season was 1963, when he came in 15th in the AL MVP voting on the strength of his 35 HR, 91 RBI, 99 runs, and 90 BB. His signature moment in the public eye was this catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Jim LeFebvre in the 5th inning of Game 2 of the 1965 World Series:
"The Catch" - Game 2 -1965 World Series

It typified his intense, team-leading style of play...
Down and dirty Bob

1962 Post Cereal Card
Bob participated in the 1959 (OF)*, 1963 (OF) &1964 (first base) All-Star Games as per the votes of his playing peers. Not playing in the '59 game, he otherwise went hitless in 5 plate appearances in the '63 & '64 games, with one walk.

 *two games at that time

Here's a video of Bob and the rest of the Silver Anniversary All-Time Twins team from the summer of 1986. I find it poignant, as it really shows a man healthy and vibrant before the onset of Ataxia, which is referenced via pop up boxes during the video scenes of Bob (starting at the 5:57 mark). Bob eventually succumbed to the disease in April, 1995. A link to the U of M Ataxia profile of him can be found here.

Here's a  full-length, vintage episode of Bob Taking on Willie Mays in Homerun Derby, airing on May 14, 1960:

He appeared in another episode of The Gillette Homerun Derby with Henry Aaron in 1960...

Bob's rainy retirement ceremony,
Sept., 1970

A footnote event to Bob's post-playing career was his appearance honoring long-time teammate Harmon Killebrew onThe David Letterman Show on Feb. 11, 1986 (recapped at TV.Com.). Check out the odd guest list, in addition to him and The Killer! After retiring, Allison had become general manager of Coca Cola's Twin Cities Marketing Division. Even in retirement, he retained that aura of respect and decency.

Ad - 1969 Twins Scorecard

Bob: 1967 Dexter Press Twins Set

Last Regular Card Issue: 1970 Topps

Welcoming Tony Oliva after homer, 1969 - from 1970 Twins Yearbook

Following his death the Minnesota Twins created the Bob Allison Award for the Twins player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. Among its winners was Michael Cuddyer in 2009. He was elected by fan vote into the Minnesota Twins Hall Of Fame in 2003.

This photo (right) has some nice, historical appeal! It's from Opening Day (on April 18, 1960) at Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C. In it, you see (L-R) then-VP Richard "You Won't Have Tricky Dick To Kick Around" Nixon (over The Great Seal of the U.S.), Senators/Twins Pres. Calvin Griffith (white overcoat, no hat), President Eisenhauer (back to camera), Bob Allison, and Senators Manager Cookie Lavagetto.

Hope you enjoyed this retrospective on this great, classic Minnesota Twin!
May Your Taters Fly Far!


Kenton Lundgren said...

Thank you for this amazing collection of memories of the man who I idolized growing up in Minneapolis. Bob Allison was a role model for me, and I used to wonder what it would be like for me if I had a father like him instead of growing up without a father. I used to delight in confounding fellow soldiers from the east coast when I joined the Army in 1971 with the reasons why Bob Allison was the greatest baseball player of all time.

Kenton Lundgren said...

You seem to have access to an amazing array of resources. Where did you get this information from? Are you a Bob Allison fan?

Michael B said...

Kenton, you could have done a lot worse than choosing Bob Allison as a role model! Yes, to answer your question,I became a Twins fan in about 1968-70 very much because of Bob and his fellow Twins teammates and stars. Batting practice with him and the rest was breathtaking, he and Harmon and Tony looked like gods, they hit the ball so high and far. Thanks for sharing your story, extremely interesting! Yes, I've tried to incorporate a quality range of info, video and document links, especially old newspaper links of late. I will try to be more up to date with my blog - I have so many extracurricular things that draw me away from blogging.

Michael B said...

Oh, and to answer your question, I have saved many photos from the internet - besides scanning a ton of the old Twins yearbooks and scorecards - and have figured out how I can put old news clippings into posts. Glad you enjoy.