25 October 2013

the lone harmon killebrew final tribute

it's good and bad at the same time that topps didn't make a card of harmon killebrew for their 1976 set.  good in that the killer looks strange in a kansas city royal uniform, but bad that there is no final tribute for the hall of famer with his complete career stats on the back.  we do have this 1975 (some say 1976) sspc card, though, 
which lists most of his key career stat totals in the text on the back
killebrew retired as the game's fifth leading home run hitter of all time, and no other right-handed american league player had hit more than his 573 homers at the time.  today, only alex rodriguez has surpassed him in that regard.  it is fitting that the final home run of killebrew's career was hit during the last game he played in minnesota - a solo shot on september 18, 1975 at the metropolitan stadium.

killebrew didn't want to leave the twins, but he also wanted to play, and calvin griffith was only willing to pay $50,000 for killebrew's services as a coach/pinch hitter in 1975.  he ultimately was released and signed a 2-year deal with the royals.  the twins retired his number during the 1975 season, and killebrew fittingly hit a home run in the game that featured the retirement ceremony.  the royals, who finished second in the al west in 1975, released killebrew after the season ended, and he eventually returned to the twins organization and became one of its greatest ambassadors.

i had the pleasure of meeting killebrew a couple of times, which is to say that i spoke with him at a couple of team sponsored events and signings.  he was revered by twins fans and this dodger fan alike.


Nick said...

Behind the '73 Clemente, this may be my all-time favorite final tribute. It's strange that Topps never gave Killebrew a true finale, though.

Jim from Downingtown said...

As I recall, Topps never made "final tribute cards" for players back in the day. Only those that left the game after the cards were already printed (Mantle, Clemente) had cards with "complete career stats" on them.

Kousfax, Robin Roberts, and I'm guesing Mays and Aaron never got a tribute card.

Vonnoosh said...

I think Topps made unintentional cards of "tribute." Clemente passed away after the start of the printing of the '73 Topps set. Mantle didn't announce his retirement until the start of spring training in '69. These cards are looked at now as 'tributes' but Topps never planned it.

Killebrew announced his retirement officially at the same time of year as Mantle (March) but no card was printed. Maybe his card contract with them was upwas