As a passionate, lifelong Twins fan, it was difficult to read this news:

Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew said Friday he will no longer fight his esophageal cancer and is settling in for the final days of his life.

The Minnesota Twins released a statement on Friday from Killebrew, who said he has “exhausted all options” for treatment of the “awful disease” and that the cancer is incurable.

“It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end,” he said. “My illness has progressed beyond my doctors’ expectation of cure.”

The 74-year-old Killebrew said he will enter hospice care.

“I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends,” he said, thanking fans and well-wishers for their support and encouragement. “I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with (wife) Nita by my side.”

One of my favorite memories as a teenager is thinking back to the night I met Mr. Killebrew. He was the featured guest at the grand opening of the St. Cloud Crown Auto store on Division Street. Every kid that played Little League or sandlot baseball was there. (Or so it seemed.)

Harmon wore as big a smile that night as he did throughout his illustrious career. Throughout his illustrious career, Harmon was as great an ambassador to the game as has ever lived. Simply put, Harmon wasn’t just one of the 5 greatest home run hitters of all time (behind Ruth, Aaron & Mays). Harmon was a true fan of the game. Besides, he was one of the greatest gentlemen to ever play the game. (In that respect, the Twins have his modern-day equivalent in Jim Thome.)

Let’s remember that Harmon essentially played his entire career in spacious outdoor stadiums. As spacious as Target Field is, it would be swallowed up by Old Met Stadium with room to spare. Just to the right field side of center field was 430 feet. The power allies were 365 feet in left, 370 in right. Down the lines were 343 in left, 330 in right.

Had he played in the Metrodome, I’d argue that you should’ve tacked at least another 100 onto his home run total.

Typical Harmon home runs weren’t the type that just landed 6-7 rows deep in straightaway left. They were “no-doubters” as Herb Carneal used to say. I remember watching Harmon shatter a seat in the upper deck at the Met on the nightly news. It was estimated that that ball travelled 535 feet. Suffice it to say that the wind wasn’t blowing out that day.

Joe Garagiola had a saying reserved for the biggest mashers. He’d say [fill in the name] can hit the ball out of any park in America, including Yellowstone. That would’ve fit Harmon to a Tee.

Now baseball is losing one of its greatest ambassadors, one of its great gentlemen. It’s a sad, sad day for this over-grown teenager-at-heart to think that the man who provided so many great memories will soon be leaving us.

If baseball had more Harmon Killebrews, it’d still be the most popular sport in America. In fact, America could use more decent, straightforward people like Harmon.

Harmon, I’ll miss hearing you in the Twins booth twice a year. May God pour out His blessings on you.

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