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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...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mr. Killebrew Comes To Bat: A 1967 GIF-a-Rama

My GIFs focusing on Harmon Killebrew are ripped from the Saturday afternoon game of September 30, 1967 (box, BBRef.) versus the Boston Red Sox. The source film for them is the oldest known, full-length, color Major League game. So, there's some uniqueness right there.

It was the middle game of the legendary, three game, season-ending series. One of the favorite sons of Boston, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, were in attendance that day at Fenway, but...did any of their fans care? The Sox were close to a pennant, and they were there for the spectacle of sluggers Yastrzemski and Harmon battling for the home run crown.

Just one win for the Twins in that series versus the improbable Sox, and it would have catapulted them into the World Series against Bob GibsonLou Brock, and the Cardinals. That, of course, is not how it went down.

The GIFs are not in chronological order - they are lined up the way they are to illustrate what The Killer did pre-at bat, or how the Red Sox reacted to him in the field, and just how savagely he swung the bat. I love it, partly because it all helps me recall how he looked  during a plate appearance. I haven't seen him hit for forty years, see? What a force he was! If you hover your cursor over the bottom of the frame, you can bring up play-by-play audio of the Boston announcers, and other menu options. I'm not sure how it'll work on iPhones, however. Just remember to click each frame off, or else you'll start hearing voices coming from, you can toggle back and forth between video and GIF, which gives great context!

It's Harmon's first inning at bat now...and here is Jose Santiago setting up his outfielders - Carl Yastrzemski in left, Reggie Smith in center, and Ken "Hawk" Harrelson in right - with a fair amount of comedy, at that, He is seemingly trying in vain to get their compliance (what, no dugout coach or manager to reign them in?). He appears to throw up his hands in frustration at the end.

In all of these shots, the non-batting gloved hands of The Killer picking up dirt (see first photo, 5th inning AB), his cleaning of his spikes, hitching up his pants, tidying his stride path for launching, is all pretty cool to observe. Then, add the super-bitchin' look of the Twins 1960s road uniform, sans all kinds of modern MLB and retail promo junk. Stuff like this gets old 50 year old+ dudes like me misty about "the good, old days" of baseball. But, maybe after watching this, you can see why.

I swear, he went down on one knee to uppercut and get that pitch airborne!

Okay, is this not the most ludicrous strike call ever?

Horrid. Killebrew is called out to end the 5th inning. So, I'm not saying that  home plate umpire Jim Honochick (see very appropriate beer ad!) was blind, or that he cost the Twins the pennant in 1967 with that call. But good God, that was one, ugly pig of a call. Ugh...that loopy curve didn't even tickle the outside corner! I'm just surprised a bit that Sox announcers Ken ColemanNed Martin, and Mel Parnell didn't even subtly offer that the call stunk.

I'll just contend that had Killebrew been given first base, it would have brought up Tony Oliva, followed by Bob Allison, followed by Rod Carew. Not a bad middle of the order, yes? The score was 1-0 in favor of the Twins at this point.We'll never know if Jose Santiago, having been pushed to more intense sequence of pitches, would have buckled, and given up the lead. But on such minute turns of momentum do pennant races go south. I'm sure the Twins felt they had half a game and then the next day to turn matters around...but the Red Sox began to pull away afterward, scoring two runs in the bottom half of the Fifth, and then four more over the next two innings, to make the score 6-2 before the Twins batted in the ninth. Sigh.

So about all we can take away from that is the singularly rare instance of Harmon getting royally p*ssed on a baseball field.

Back to savagery - not the murderous, umpiring sort, but the kind that decimates baseballs...Killebrew as the home run leader of the 1960s had hit 323 home runs in the decade to this point, and with this swing, he hit his 324th, and 44th of 1967. It was his last of the year, placing him in a tie with Yastrzemski. It was an outstanding at bat on his part, as he battled Gary "Ding Dong" Bell by fouling off three pitches, before homering on this 2-2 offering. But Oliva lined a shot right at third baseman Jerry Adair for the final out. 

Through even sad events, Twins baseball history is made. They can't all be dramatic 7th Game endings. The sunny, flowery days wouldn't look as good without the grey, cloudy ones, dig? And getting some sights of Harmon Killebrew makes even that bad medicine go down a bit nicer.

"So long, everybody!"- Herb Carneal

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