It was either 1971 or 1972. The local TV station* in Bismarck, North Dakota would show about a half dozen early season road games to whet the appetite of regional Twins fans for the upcoming season. It was a Saturday afternoon. In the kitchen, on the high counter ledge there was a small black-and-white TV with grainy reception. On it was this stocky right handed hitter that my brother identified in that big-brother-as-teacher sort of way (as in, “you really ought to know who that guy is”), as Harmon Killebrew.
*It was probably KXMB, but if that guess is wrong, then it was KFYR. Yes, kids, I spent the first fifteen years of my life with just two TV stations.
That is the first memory I have where I was aware of the Minnesota Twins. I’ve dug around Baseball-reference trying to figure out what game that was — my best guess is April 10, 1971 @ the White Sox. I know I was not aware of the Twins when they made the playoffs in 1970. So, with my first memory being 1971 or later, The formative years of my Twins-fandom was all about longing. There would be nothing as rewarding as a playoff game until 1987 — which made that 1987 October so grand.
Also, therefore, I never saw Harmon at his Killer-fiercest. I’d kill for a 28 home run season from a 2011 Twin, but it was one-notch down from his almost-all-amazing previous dozen years. Four years later on the same black-and-white TV, I’d watch Harmon in a Kansas City Royals uniform making his incongruous final season.
But I revered him. I protected his memory from friends or brothers who would soon be calling him Harmless Harmon. By revering him for his greatness that came at a time before I remember, I had already hooked into baseball’s ability to form tradition. What could tradition be to a six year old? Yet, I already had my link to the Twins first decade.
And that first baseball image on a black-and-white TV projects forward to — it has led to 40 years without missing a box score.
Thank you for all that you linked me back to and all that you led me to, Harmon.