New Harmon Killebrew Book Worthwhile

I grabbed Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger (by Steve Aschburner, Triumph Books) to relive my childhood.

I grew up in Central Iowa. I remember WHO Radio being a Twins station. Families felt safe going to the Twin Cities. They weren’t scary cities like Chicago or St. Louis, but a place where your cousins lived and Met Stadium bordered farm fields.

This 2012 Killebrew book is bittersweet, in that the author confesses that he wishes he could have written a first-person “as told to.” Instead, the book is a catch-up effort after the Hall of Famer’s 2011 death.

Nevertheless, talented researcher Aschburner makes the most of the opportunity, even gleaning some nuggets of special meaning to autograph collectors. Such as:

In 1985, Killebrew’s hometown of Payette, Idaho, had two business boosters who imagined painting red stitches on the white high school gym dome, then adding a huge facsimile Killebrew autograph. The plan was scuttled only when students protested giving priority to only one former resident.

In a 1959 game, Killebrew exchanged autographed baseballs with President Dwight Eisenhowever. He claimed the ball was for grandson David. When Killebrew met David in 1970, he told the slugger how he had kept the signed ball all those years.

Overheard behind the Metrodome batting cage? Killebrew to Joe Mauer: “Your swing is perfect Joe. Now work on that autograph.”

Autographs may have played a role in Killebrew’s retirement. Aschburner recounts a Killebrew tale during his final year, 1975. He signed baseballs for two kids at Anaheim Stadium. He overheard the kids discussing the autograph.

“Well, is he any good?”

“He used to be.”

Killebrew concluded, “I mean, kids tell it like it is, and he was right. It was time for me to quit.”

Avid Twins fans will love the book most. Ashburner slows down the narrative, piling on details about other Twins and the team’s history. Someone tuning in strictly for Killebrew tales may get impatient.
As editor, I would have shaved content.

Of course, dedicated Twins-atics might protest. Where else will you get a comprehensive rundown of every word Jim Bouton wrote about Killebrew in Ball Four? Or, what all got said during Killebrew’s two appearances on the David Letterman show?

All in all, Ultimate Slugger fills a void in Hall of Famer history. If you remember this “Killer” (autograph or not) and smile, you’ll want this on your reading list.

Coming Monday: a challenge for on-the-move TTM collectors.

Harmon Killebrew Knew Penmanship!

Upper Deck hit a home run with this insert set!
Say AMEN somebody!!!

He never was “H —– K——–.”

Even more, Harmon Killebrew felt everyone else should give full-name autographs. Remember, this wasn’t an “Ed Ott” lecturing current players. This was the 15-letter man, someone who had walked the walk for decades of spelling out every last bit of his lengthy name.

I loved the FOX Sports article. We need more reporters like Tyler Mason who’ll salute respectful hobby HOFers while shaming the slothful superstars.

Coming Monday: Will the Cardinals break my mail slump?

Harmon Killebrew + Uppity Ump Humble Chicago Hurler Ken Frailing!

Another matching autograph!
His sig still makes every letter count!

Pitcher Ken Frailing shared a sly sense of humor with me in his thoughtful reply.

While Frailing didn’t have the longest career, he spent it all in Chicago, going from the White Sox to the Cubs. I asked how it felt being part of the four-person deal to obtain legend Ron Santo on Dec. 11, 1973.

“Ron Santo was, and is, an icon in Chicago. We had met a few times. He was a great guy as well.

It was a real break for me. The Cubs needed left-handed pitching and I needed to be on another team. The Sox had great young arms, Rich Gossage and Terry Forster, for example.”

The Cubs got a quick return on their investment. Frailing worked in 55 games for the 1974 Cubbies. The stat shows just part of his workload, Frailing confirmed:

“I was up in over 100 games in 1974. I was tired at the end of the season.”

Frailing wasn’t an exclusive reliever for his new team. On May 27, 1974 (with thanks to, the lefty compiled an unusual complete-game win against the Giants at Wrigley Field. While he wasn’t the day’s most mystifying moundsman, Frailing put on a show at the plate: three hits and three RBI.

“I had a nifty 14-hitter and a complete game. I threw 158 pitches in that game.

I remember getting those hits and especially against a left-handed pitcher (Mike Caldwell).”

When Frailing summed up feelings about his career, he added one amazing bonus, writing:

“Baseball was a great part of my life. I really enjoyed my time and the memories are priceless.

Example: my major league debut in old Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t start any better than that.

Let me share one story from my career. 1972 — Chicago White Sox.

I am pitching to Harmon Killebrew. I got 1 ball, 2 strikes and throw a breaking ball over the heart of the plate. The umpire calls it a ball.

When the inning is over, I am walking to the dugout and the umpire meets me at the foul line and says, “Hey, rookie. Who do you think these people pay to see, you pitch, or Killebrew hit?”

I knew where I stood in the scheme of things.


Thanks for your interest. May God bless!

Ken Frailing”

Tomorrow: Happy 57th baseball anniversary, Tom Bradley!

Eric Soderholm Honors Three Twins Legends

No signature change
in 35 years!

Eric Soderholm lived two lives. He’s known to many as a gritty Minnesota Twins third baseman. Others remember the reborn slugger who found his career comeback as one of the Chicago White Sox “South Side Hit Men” in 1977.

I saw him play in Minnesota, providing the foundation for two questions.
First, I asked what it was like to play in the company of three stars — Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew. Soderholm replied:

“Killebrew, Carew and Oliva were world class, on and off field. Learned from their determination.”

I shivered when I thought about seeing Soderholm play at Metropolitan Stadium. In fact, every Twins game there left me with a BRRR! My folks loved the easy access to the ballpark from Iowa. Other teams played in CITIES. The Twins played…nearby.

“The Met was a nice park for right-handed hitters — but COLD!”

A knee injury shelved Soderholm for all of 1976. When The Sporting News named him American League Comeback Player of the Year, I wondered how he felt about the title.

“Comeback Player of Year was a great honor — and appreciated after I worked so hard on my knee.

Best wishes,
Eric Soderholm”

A well-done profile of Soderholm, written by Mark Liptak, can be found at one of my favorite websites, Baseball Almanac.

Tomorrow: An inside peek at the “Baseball By The Letters” mailbox.

Brewer Jim Colborn Wins 22-Inning Battle

Do you remember everything you were doing 37 or 38 years ago?

Jim Colborn, an experienced pitching coach, kindly hinted that I had a typo in my letter. I asked him about winning an epic battle against the Twins on May 12, 1972. Not 1973. ( knew the right date, too!) He showed tact and humility, refusing to brag about hitting his team’s only triple in the waning days before the designated hitter.

Colborn wrote:

“Was this game in 1973 or 1972? I remember it well. Seems like Harmon Killebrew kept coming up…I was trying to be careful he didn’t hit one out. Biggest memory besides triple was that victory came the next day! Next day’s starter, Jim Lonborn, pitched bottom of the 21st for save after we scored in top half. We waited half hour or so and he started the next game — AND, as I remember it, that game went 14 INNINGS!”

Tomorrow: Shades of Bull Durham, Batman! Colborn reveals some of his favorite 1970s diversions while hanging out in bullpens.

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