Over 10 plus years, we at, CYInterview, have had the honor and privilege of interviewing great individuals in a variety of fields like sports, entertainment and business. Getting to speak with lots of movers and shakers is fun. However, life – in and of itself – is bittersweet. Life is filled with joy and loss. People are born and people die.
With the amount of people we’ve interviewed over the course of a decade – probably more than 1000 – it is inevitable that some CYInterview alumni are now no longer with us. One of CYInterview’s past interview subjects is baseball legend Harmon Killebrew, who passed away today of esophageal cancer. He was 74.
In July of 2007, I had the opportunity to speak with the Baseball Hall of Famer and homerun champion of the Minnesota Twins and Washington Senators.
I ended up speaking with Harmon after being informed he would be doing interviews for an old TV show that was being released on DVD. The name of the show was Homerun Derby. It aired in 1960 and pitted many of baseball’s greats against each other, in homerun contests for cash prizes.
Baseball-wise, only 10 other men have hit more homeruns than Harmon’s 573. He was without a doubt one of the game’s most treasured players. Perhaps, what stood out most in our interview is that Mr. Killebrew wanted people to know about the history of baseball. Indeed, to many baseball fans, he is an integral part of baseball lore, never to be forgotten.
Below is an entire transcript of our interview from 2007, covering many topics. You can listen to the interview as well:
Listen to the Harmon Killebrew interview:
Chris Yandek: How are you doing?
Harmon Killebrew: “Chris, it’s nice to be with you. I am doing well thank you. I am excited about this DVD. MGM’s doing a great job of putting together this old show that we did after the ‘59 season. Seems like a long time ago now.”
CY: It must be a surreal feeling looking back at all these greats you played with and against. What should the public of today know about your era of baseball?
HK: “I think it was a great era to play baseball. People ask me now, don’t you wish you were playing baseball today? I guess if you were talking about the money, that would be great. I think during that period there was more great players that played the game than any other era in the history of the game. You’ve mentioned some of those guys Mantle, Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Duke Snyder, Frank Robinson, Al Kailine. What a great time to play baseball. I was happy that I was able to do it then.”
CY: What do you remember most about the TV show 50 years later now almost?
HK: “Not many of us were use to being on television in those days. I think the short answers that we gave in between innings is one thing that I will always remember. After our time was up, three outs, we would walk back and visit with Mark Scott who was the announcer. He would ask short questions and we gave very short answers to those questions. I think the people that get this new DVD will enjoy watching it. I know I am enjoying watching this first release of this volume coinciding with the All Star Game. The second one will be out in August and then the third one in September.”
CY: Home Run Derby was in a way reality TV before the competition shows of today like Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, American Idol, because you had two big baseball players in front of a television audience. You have no clue what’s going to happen and in return they get cash prizes which weren’t really big in $1000, $2000.
HK: “It was big in those days. A lot of us thought it was very, very huge. You got $2000 to win, $1000 if you lost. If you hit three home runs in a row you got an extra $500. It was a big deal.”
CY: I mean in those days it was a big deal, but by today’s standards people today would say, wow they didn’t get more than that? It really was like reality TV before its time.
HK: “That’s correct. You’re right.”
CY: We get to see you face off against Mickey Mantle in this DVD in a very competitive home run battle where you guys are really going at it. What should the public known about Mickey overall?
HK: “Mickey Mantle was one of the great ballplayers that ever lived. I thought he had more physical ability than any player I ever saw. Then of course he hurt his legs and he lost his feet that he once had. I remember going to All Star games where Mickey was in the clubhouse and he’d have his leg taped from ankle to his hip. He was playing in a lot of pain over the years, but what a great player Mickey was, great power from both sides of the plate. He’s the only power hitter I ever saw that would bunt with two strikes and were happy to see it.”
CY: Then we look at you and the way you were able to hit a ball, 573 home runs, ninth all time for the whole league. You led the majors six different years in home runs. What made you such a successful hitter?
HK: “Oh gosh, that’s a tough question to answer. Some guys can run fast. Some pitchers or ballplayers are able to throw hard. Some of us had a little power. I just worked at that and tried to develop it and it’s hard to say exactly one thing was a reason for hitting a lot of home runs. Ralph Kiner came to me when I was very young and said, ‘Kid, I think if you move up on the plate you’ve got some power, but to hit more home runs consistently you have to pull the ball more.’ I tried it and it worked out pretty well.”
CY: I had a chance to listen to your Hall of Fame speech the other day and you were just so appreciative of the other players you played with before and during your MLB career. How did your teammates make you a better player?
HK: “Well, my first roommate in the big leagues and a guy that’s still connected with the Boston Red Sox and my first roommate was Johnny Pesky. Johnny was very, very helpful when I was first starting to play professionally, giving me some advice on a lot of things. In those days the older players tried to help the younger players I think more. I never forgot that and I tried to do the same thing as I developed into a regular and more experienced player.”
CY: You look at the game today and you see all these accusations, all these different players using different performance enhancing drugs, when you look at what’s going on today as a former major leaguer, are guys during back even your time looking to get an edge or was it not really like that then?
HK: “No. Of course it wasn’t like that. There was a different setup. There wasn’t anything like what’s going on now. There was no clouds over the game. I think all of us just that have played in years past are very disappointed of what’s happened. I think the sooner they get this cleared up the better it will be for baseball.”
CY: In closing, what do you want people to remember about your baseball career as a player and what are you up to today?
HK: ”Well, I think the main thing that I am concerned about, I think a lot of us that have played the game before is that there is a great history in the game of baseball and this new DVD that MGM has come out I think enables people to look back at history and remember some of the great players of the past and what we actually did.”
CY: Harmon Killebrew, thank you for your time today. We wish you the best and good luck with the rest of what you do the rest of your life.
HK: “Thank you.”
Harmon Killebrew’s official website is at http://www.harmonkillebrew.com/
You can email Chris Yandek at [email protected]