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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 5: Former MLB player Harmon Killebrew laughs during the Minnesota Twins Legends game prior to a game between the Texas Rangers and the Minnesota Twins on September 5, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins won 6-5. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Harmon Killebrew, as well known for his unfailing politeness as the tape measure home runs he hit in a Hall of Fame career with the Washington Senators ad Minnesota Twins, died at his home in Arizona. He was 74.
The death was not unexpected, as Killebrew's battle with esophogeal cancer took a turn for the worse last week and he wet into hospice care. He released a farewell of sorts to fans on Friday, thanking them for "the outpouring of concern, prayers and encouragement" shown him.
"I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with Nita by my side," Killebrew said, referring to his wife.
Killebrew was a rawboned, 18-year-old outfielder when he broke into the Major Leagues with Washington in 1954, the same year Aaron made the big leagues. He struggled to get playing time until 1959, when he became a fulltime player and led the league with 42 home runs. That was the first of five seasons in which Killebrew led the league in round-trippers. The team moved to Minnesota, becoming the Twins in 1961, and Killebrew was named the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1969
Killebrew hit 40 home runs or more eight times, and once sent one soaring 520 feet.
"I didn't have evil intentions," he once said. "But I guess I did have power."
Teammates and fans alike always praised Killebrew for his gentle nature and agreeable personality.
"As good as he was in baseball, he was probably even better as a person," said Charlie Manuel, a former Twins teammate who is now manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
A photo of Killebrew poised and ready to swing is believed to be the inspiration for Major League Baseball's official logo.
A pure slugger, Killebrew had a lifetime batting average of just .256. But when he retired in 1975, his 573 home runs ranked fifth all time, behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.