Harmon Killebrew 1955 #124
Harmon Killebrew was a soft spoken gentleman whose baseball accomplishments often went unnoticed early in his career. He played for the Senators and Twins in Washington and Minnesota and finished his career for the Kansas City Royals in 1975 after 22 seasons in the Majors. His 1955 Topps card #124 is his rookie card and is one of my favorites.
Killebrew had quick hands and superior upper-body strength. His home runs were often tape measure shots. He was the first to hit a ball over the left field roof of Tiger Stadium and is credited with the longest home run in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. His longest, and longest in Twins history, was a 520 foot shot at home in Metropolitan Stadium.
People say that Killebrew had a compact swing, but I remember a swing more like Mantle's with a good stride and tremendous shoulder strength. He struggled early in his career with strikeouts, but soon, playing in the shadow of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Duke Snider, he would calmly go about slamming home runs into the distant reaches of outfield seats. In 1959 he exploded for 42 home runs to lead the league. He would lead the league in home runs 6 times. An 11 time All Star Killebrew would always be in the MVP voting and would win the award in 1969 when he would hit 49 home runs with 140 RBIs and lead the league in walks with 145. He lead the league in walks 4 times. He is currently 11th on the career home run list with 573 and ranks 8th all time for AB per HR.
Killebrew said that his first home run in the Majors was his favorite, coming off Billy Hoeft at Griffith Stadium. Killebrew said "Frank House was the catcher. When I came to the plate, he said, 'Kid, we’re going to throw you a fastball.' I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. I hit it out. It was one of the longest home runs I ever hit. As I crossed the plate, House said, 'That’s the last time I ever tell you what pitch is coming'."
"The Killer was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball history, but he was also one of the nicest people ever to play the game. He was one of the few players who would go out of his way to compliment umpires on a good job, even if their calls went against him. I'd call a tough strike on him and he would turn around and say approvingly, "Good call." And he was the same way in the field. And he never did this to get help on close plays, as some players do. The man hit 573 major league home runs and no umpire ever swung a bat for him." — Ron Luciano, Umpire Strikes Back
For more on Harmon check out the Killebrew 1956 Showcase card.
You can check out Killebrew's statistics at Baseball Reference