Friday, May 20, 2011

Harmon Killebrew honored in funeral service

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It was a large gathering. Hundreds of people from across the country packed into a massive church near Harmon Killebrew's Scottsdale, Arizona, home to pay their final respects to the slugger. Killebrew passed away Tuesday after a difficult battle with esophageal cancer.

Pall bearers included current Twins Ron Gardenhire and Justin Morneau as well as former teammates Frank Quilici and Tony Oliva.

"Dad, I feel it's a privilege to call you dad. I will miss you greatly," Killebrew's daughter Shawn Bair said.

One of Harmon's grandchildren, his son-in-law and his oldest son also spoke.

Watch the funeral service: part one, part two, part three

It was a celebration of Harmon's life off the baseball field. He will be fondly remembered for the way he treated everyone equally and with the greatest respect. It is, perhaps, his legacy.

"Like he always told us, keep swinging," Harmon's son Cam said.

Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball. He recalled the conversation he had with his buddy the day before he passed. Killebrew was concerned.

"You know what he was concerned about? The Twins were oh and eight," Blyleven said.

Hammerin' Harmon hit 573 home runs in his storied career. Blyleven asked the crowd to help celebrate his 574th.

"He wants to hear the roar of the crowd," Blyleven said before leading a long, respectful and heart-warming ovation. "We should all leave here knowing he touched our lives," Blyleven concluded.

Following the funeral current Twins Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer told reporters that Harmon left his mark on them, calling him a model to follow as an athlete and as a person. The Twins would leave after the service to get ready for a night game in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks.

"We all left the church this morning with a good feeling in our hearts that we're going to see him again. I think my good friend upstairs just needed another power hitter," former teammate and baseball legend Rod Carew said.

A private burial is scheduled Monday in Killebrew's hometown of Payette, Idaho


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