Results tagged ‘ Harmon Killebrew ’
Was that Brandon Allen who hit a home run in the third deck of right field at Yankee Stadium in the second inning Tuesday night, or Dick Allen?
Not too many balls have reached that level of the new Stadium since its opening in 2009. Mark Teixeira drove one up there last year, and regular Stadium basher Russell Branyan also parked one in that section. Brandon Allen joined the group with his blast off Bartolo Colon.
Dick Allen, who was both a Rookie of the Year (National League, 1964, with the Phillies) and a Most Valuable Player (American League, 1972, with the White Sox) was a masher of the first order in the 1960s and ‘70s. He hit 351 home runs, several of them in orbit. Dick Allen was a right-handed batter, however, so the chances of his hitting one into the upper deck in right field at the Stadium was pretty remote.
I recall that back in his era Allen was a player mentioned about having a chance to hit a fair ball out of the old Stadium along with Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew and Frank Howard. No one ever did it.
Brandon Allen, a left-handed batter, came to Oakland on the July 31 trading deadline from Arizona in a deal for pitcher Brad Ziegler. Allen began the year in the minors and hit .172 in 11 games for the Diamondbacks before the trade. He entered Tuesday night’s game batting .379 in nine games, but this was his first home run for the A’s and fourth of the year and long enough to count for two.
Now that’s the way to put an end to an extended losing streak. The best thing about the Yankees’ 6-2 victory over the Rays Tuesday night to stop the six-game slide, the franchise’s longest losing streak in four years, was that so many players contributed to a winning effort in so many ways.
It was truly a team effort. Only Curtis Granderson, who had 0-for-5, failed to lend a hand, but he deserves to be cut some slack considering how consistent and powerful he has been with the bat all year. It says something about the rest of the Yankees that they didn’t need Granderson to pull this one out.
Ivan Nova gave up one run, on a home run to Elliot Johnson, and pitched into the sixth inning. With Rafael Soriano placed on the disabled list because of an inflamed right elbow, the bullpen needed to pick up the slack and did so. David Robertson faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth and handled it magnificently by striking out B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman.
After Robertson swayed a bit with two walks, Joba Chamberlain shut the door that inning and tagged on a scoreless eighth. Mariano Rivera came into the game in a non-save situation in the ninth to get the final out, so you know how important manager Joe Girardi considered this game.
Girardi’s faith in his pen may be why the Yankees did not replace Soriano on the 25-man roster with another relief pitcher but instead with outfielder Chris Dickerson, who traveled all day from Pennsylvania to Florida and did his part with an RBI single while spelling Nick Swisher, out due to a stomach virus.
On the day Harmon Killebrew, his predecessor as the American League record holder for home runs by a right-handed batter, died, Alex Rodriguez bashed two homers in successive at-bats, as many as he had in his previous 100 at-bats. Home runs Nos. 620 and 621 were great signs from A-Rod, who was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Monday night after a 2-for-12 series last weekend against the Red Sox. Maybe Alex is on his way.
Jorge Posada showed life in his swing with a double and a single. Brett Gardner had three hits and scored two runs. Derek Jeter had an infield hit for an RBI. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Russell Martin had a single apiece. Eduardo Nunez scored as a pinch runner for Posada and added a run-building sacrifice bunt.
Another favorable aspect was that the Yankees scored four of their six runs after the sixth inning. For the third straight game, they hit a quality starter hard, this time James Shields following the Rays’ David Price Monday night and the Red Sox’ Jon Lester Sunday night. This time, though, the Yankees kept up the attack against the opponent’s bullpen. The Yankees had 4-for-6 with runners in scoring position in those last three innings to give their own bullpen working room.
It all worked enough to send the Yankees off to Baltimore working on a winning streak.
No Hall of Famer had a more underserving nickname than the “Killer” label that was hung on Harmon Killebrew. Obviously, it was play on his last name and a description of how he mashed baseballs with one of baseball’s most violent swings.
Killebrew, who died Tuesday of esophageal cancer at the age of 74, was in reality a warm man and an extremely popular player with teammates. Former pitcher and Yankees broadcaster Jim Kaat was at Yankee Stadium last week and recalled that it was Killebrew who first welcomed him to the clubhouse with the Washington Senators as a rookie in 1959, the year Killebrew led the American League in home runs for the first of six times in his career.
“Harmon was a quiet guy who perfectly fit the profile of a player who led by example,” Kaat said. “He was professional in every aspect of the game. I saw him during spring training, and he was determined to give this a good fight, but when I talked to him last week he could barely get the words out. Still, he was the same old Harmon oozing with warmth.”
Killebrew could not be called a gentle giant since he stood 5-foot-11, but you get the idea. His 210 pounds were packed thickly on his frame. He was one of those rare athletes (Sandy Koufax is another) who were trimmer after he retired as a player. People who remember him as a bruiser in the batter’s box might be surprised to find out that Killebrew was very graceful on the dance floor, which he and wife Nita displayed every summer at the Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.
My favorite story about Killebrew was one he told about his boyhood. Harmon was very proud of being the first person from the state of Idaho to be elected to the Hall of Fame. On the day of his election, he talked about how his father taught him and his brothers how to play the game by playing catch and pitching to them on the family’s front yard.
One day, Killebrew’s mother came on the porch and scolded her husband for allowing the boys to stomp all over the property.
“We’ll never have a lawn,” she complained.
“We’re not raising grass,” Mr. Killebrew said, “We’re raising sons.”
I’d say he did one helluva job.
Regular readers will be familiar with my fondness for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, although the welcome mat I place for him at Yankee Stadium over the years hasn’t been matched by the Yankees. The Stadiums old and new have been horror houses to the affable skipper whom I have known since I covered him on the Mets in the early 1980s.
One of my responsibilities as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is to contact the winners of the annual awards as well as those elected to the Hall of Fame, and it was an absolute pleasure to break the news to Gardy last November that he had finally won the American League Manager of the Year Award after having finished second five times. I asked him where he had put the trophy.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll get my first look when we go back home after this series.”
Truth be told, the Manager of the Year trophies are not given out at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner with the other awards, Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year. Yes, the official presentations are made there, and the managers speak from the dais, but a token gift is handed to them. The shape of the trophy, which is impressive, is such that for some reason it does not travel well, so the BBWAA likes to send the trophy to what will be its final destination. In Gardenhire’s case, it was sent to Target Field in Minneapolis.
Trophies shipped to both Joe Torre when he won for the first time with the Yankees in 1996 and Joe Girardi when he won the National League award with the Marlins in 2006 cracked during transport, and each had to be replaced. Gardenire might have expected a damaged trophy if the writers have given it to him at Yankee Stadium.
Gardy’s record here is nothing short of horrible – 4-25 during the regular season and 2-5 in the AL Division Series. Awards voting is done prior to the start of post-season play, so the Yanks’ sweep of the Twins was not a road block for Gardenhire.
Writers took into account that Gardenhire did not have one of his former MVP players, first baseman Justin Morneau, for the second half of the season. Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 at Toronto and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Morneau’s situation still bears monitoring, and Gardenhire applauds Major League Baseball for establishing a new disabled list rule regarding players with concussions.
A player sustaining a concussion may not be placed on a seven-day DL, which would allow a team to replace him without putting the onus for the injured play to suck up what has proved a serious condition so as not to let down his teammates. If the player needs to remain on the DL for the full 15 days, the period can begin retroactively.
“It’s an important step for baseball,” Gardy said. “We didn’t know much about concussions in the old days. I was knocked out twice in my career and played the next day. In one case, I kept on playing in the game that I was knocked out.”
Gardenhire recalled that while playing shortstop for the Tidewater Tides, then the Mets’ Triple A affiliate, against the Columbus Clippers, then the Yankees’ top farm, he was struck in the head with a pitch and lost consciousness.
“When I came to,” he said, “they asked me if I wanted to keep playing. ‘Sure,’ I said. No one wants to come out of the lineup. So I kept on playing. Of course, I don’t remember anything about the rest of the game. A rule like this goes a long way to understanding this condition.”
Also in Minnesota’s traveling party is the newest Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven, the 287-game winner as a pitcher and the long-time television analyst for the Twins. Bert told me he is enjoying his “Blyleven in ‘11” year and brings good news about another Twins Hall of Famer.
Harmon Killebrew, the former slugger who is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Target Field Friday for the Twins’ home opener against Oakland.
The New York Chapter of the BBWAA honored Killebrew with its Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award in recognition of his outstanding 1961 season that was overshadowed by the Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record. He was unable to attend the dinner, and Gardenhire accepted in his place. The writers have an open invitation for Killebrew to attend the dinner next January, and we’re rooting for him to be able to make it.