Sunday, March 1, 2009

#51 & 52 -- Harmon Killebrew & "In Action"

Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew was one of the gentlest big men to play in the big leagues. He's 2nd all time for most AL homers. Anytime Babe Ruth is the only person ahead of you on the leaderboard, you're a stud . By this time in his career, Harmon was declining. But I'd have to say that he's still the best Minnesota Twin in their history, with only Rod Carew close by.

This makes back to back Hall of Famers. If you want to count Harmon's appearance on John Ellis' "action" card, this is 5 cards in a row with Hall of Famers. Pretty good run.

Harmon wasn't big, only 5'11". But he hit some of the farthest homers around. Legend has it that an Idaho senator tipped off Clark Griffith about this guy who was hitting .847 for a semi-pro team. That's pretty good. That's even better than I hit in my heyday of playing co-ed softball and refining my stroke to hit it to the girl in right field that didn't want to be there. Harmon signed and, under baseball's Bonus Baby rule, had to spend 2 years on the big league roster. He made his debut 6 days short of his 18th birthday. He wasn't ready. It wasn't until 1958 that he was ready to play.

OK, it's Hall of Fame time. You've got a guy with 573 lifetime homers, at the time #5 all-time (Aaron, Ruth, Mays, F. Robinson), 1 MVP award and 5 other Top 5 finishes, 11 time All-Star, lifetime OPS+ of 143 and 8 40-homer seasons. In or out? In Harmon's first trip on the ballot, he was named on only 59% of the ballots. Bob Gibson was the only inductee and future HOFers that didn't make it that year included Don Drysdale, Hoyt Wilhelm, Juan Marichal, Red Schoendienst, Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox, Richie Ashburn, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Aparicio and Bill Mazeroski. Harmon, with his credentials, didn't make it until the 4th ballot. There's no doubt that "The Killer" was a shoo-in Hall of Famer, but you can see that the voters at that time were very protective of who got enshrined in Cooperstown. I fall into that same crowd and think the HOF is for the very absolute best of the best.

The "action" card could be one of two things. Either Harmon has just nailed one that's headed for parking lot or he's popped up to the catcher. Either way, even though he wasn't a tall guy, he looks like a giant the way Topps framed this card. I think it's great. Harmon lives in the Scottsdale area now and does a lot of charity work, including a golf tournament every year in the name of his former Twin teammate Danny Thompson, who died of leukemia.

Harmon's one of those guys who isn't just a Hall of Famer ballplayer, he's a Hall of Fame person.


  1. Can you explain what cards the backs of the "In Action" cards are advertising? Is it other cards in this set? I don't understand. Thanks.

  2. They're giving a sneak peek of what special subset cards are coming up in each series.

    Series 1 - Multi-player League Leader cards
    Series 2 - Playoff and World Series games
    Series 3 - Boyhood Photos and "So you're a baseball expert" on the backs of the In Action cards.
    Series 4 - Boyhood Photos and 1971 Highlights (on backs of In Action cards).
    Series 5 - Trophy awards (the boring "MVP Award" cards that only picture the trophy and list winners on the back) and puzzles (Torre & Yaz)
    Series 6 - Biggest Trades (Traded cards) and puzzles (Oliva & Seaver)

    Out of all of those, I liked the Boyhood Photos and the Traded cards the most. I think the draw of the "Traded" subset was the way "TRADED" was stamped across the player.

  3. But what are the "series"? Are they later on in this same set, or were they sets of cards that Topps issued at a later time? Or was this entire set released in staggered fashion, so they were advertising cards that BOTH came later in the set AND were released separately at a later time?

  4. Even though Killebrew appears to be popping up this is a great shot for a slugger. Carries a majestic sense of power.

  5. Very delayed response to Andy's questions. Through 1973 Topps issued sets in Series. Each series corresponded with the checklist (all the cards in the first series were on the first checklist, etc.). The reason that high numbers are so tough to get for these sets is that since they were released at the end of the season, not as many of them were made.

    By the way, Killer may have only been 5"10", but he went 210. Look at those legs in the Action card. No wonder he had all those homers.