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Remembering an amazing double take

Posted by Ed Giuliotti  May 18, 2011 07:24 PM

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I have one Harmon Killebrew story. I took a solo trip to The Yankee Stadium, from my home in Trenton, N.J., on the last Sunday in June of 1965. I didn't know it was Bat Day, or that I would be lucky to get a ticket. Off the top of my head, I recall that the attendance was 71,244, and I dare you to look it up.

In the course of that doubleheader, won by the Twins, I saw some interesting things, including Tony Oliva hitting a triple down the left field line on a ball that would otherwise have untied his right shoe. But that wasn't the most amazing thing I saw on that sweltering June afternoon.

I can't recall which game, or who the Yankee hurler was, but someone threw him a pitch that resulted in a ground rule double. So what? Is that what you're saying? Who among us hasn't see hundreds of ground rule doubles?

OK, Mr/Mrs. Wise Guy: how many ground rule doubles have you seen that one-hopped the 457-foot sign in deepest left-center?

Now I told this story for the next 34 years, always a bit worried that I had hallucinated this thing. Then came the All-Star Game in Boston 12 years ago. I had the opportunity to meet Harmon Killebrew for the first time, and I popped the question, or, I should say, I stated my premise that on Bat Day in Yankee Stadium on that long ago June Sunday I saw you hit a ball that one-hopped the 457-foot sign.

To which Harmon Killebrew replied, "You were there?"

Talk about feeling smug...

As you have read and heard for the past day or so, Harmon Killebrew was one of the nicest and most beloved people in recent baseball history. He is being universally mourned throughout the game, although perhaps not so much by the many pitchers he abused. I only know that he was as terrifying a righthanded hitter as I have ever seen in Fenway Park because virtually everything he hit in the air went waaaaaay in the air. He hit towering, majestic fly balls, not laser line drives such as Frank Howard would produce. Thus, he was a total menace in Fenway.

Pretty good in Yankee Stadium, too.

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