One Great Season
I never saw his swing in person. I never witnessed his majestic home runs. For much of my life, Harmon Killebrew was a legendary name and nothing more.
Perhaps it was fitting that in an old historic ballpark, Harmon Killebrew became a real man to me.
I was working for WFIE-TV in Evansville, Ind., and Killebrew was in town promoting hospice care. At the time, I had no idea what hospice was or why someone would travel from town to town speaking of it. All I knew was that this young memorabilia collector had a baseball or two to get signed.
It was a perfect spring morning with just a little bit of chill in the air. Killebrew agreed to do a live shot with a morning reporter of ours at Bosse Field, the backdrop for the movie "A League of Their Own," and the third-oldest ballpark in America. The reporter there knew very little about baseball. So, Harmon and I hit it off pretty well when he realized I knew a thing or two about baseball, both past and present.
Sometimes when you're in a special moment you know it. I was leaning against a dugout wall talking baseball with one of the game's greats. He was opinionated, but not bitter. He was insightful, but not too nostalgic. Most importantly, he was inquisitive. He was engaging. And, it didn't bother me that he kept calling me "Jack." I didn't have the heart to correct him.
Yet, to this day, I have a hard time remembering much of what we discussed. However, I do remember that we spent about five minutes playing catch. And, I remember, even in my early 20s, being caught up in the moment ... realizing what an amazing moment I was experiencing.
It wasn't until I met some other baseball greats like Frank Robinson and Bob Gibson that I truly appreciated what a kind and humble man Killebrew was. And, it wasn't until I've seen some dear friends of my family take the often slow and painful path to the next life that I truly grasped and appreciated the amazing service that hospice provides.
As I've read about Harmon Killebrew in the last 24 hours, I find that many writers and players have similarly wonderful stories about this man and their interactions with him. I may have never witnessed his greatness as a player on the field, but I am glad to have had a brush with his greatness as a man.
Ben Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter. Click here for his bio and an archive of his previous OGS stories.