The news came as a shock, even though we knew it wouldn’t be long. Just a few days after telling the world that he had given up his cancer fight, Harmon Killebrew died early Tuesday. He was 74.
One of the most popular Hall of Famers both for his on-field exploits and gentlemanly demeanor off it, Killebrew’s passing evoked tears from even the steeliest competitors. Jack Morris choked up at an afternoon news conference in Minnesota.
“We all loved Harmon so much,” said new Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, another former Twins’ great. “Harmon was a great man, on and off the field. He was a bigger Hall of Famer off the field. Everyone that Harmon ever came in contact with has a story about what a class man he was.”
Killebrew debuted with the Washington Senators and his 1955 Topps rookie card was a hot seller Tuesday–maybe because of an anticipated but unlikely spike in value but more because fans wanted a lasting memory. More than 20 cards sold at varying prices and conditions. The highest price paid was for a near mint-mint ungraded example that went through the auction process before closing at $570. Several were “Buy it Now” purchases that clearly came within hours of his death.
Several Killebrew autographed items were sold over the last week, with jerseys, bats and other premium items typically bringing $275-300.
Killebrew was almost always generous with his signature, signing through the mail after his career ended in the mid-1970s. As a now-deceased Hall of Famer, values will likely increase–perhaps significantly because of his popularity with fans seeking to re-connect with the era of pre-steroid home run hitters. Over 3,800 Killebrew items were on eBay as of Tuesday night.
“Harmon Killebrew was a gem,” said Rod Carew, who came up with the Twins during the latter part of Killebrew’s career. “I can never thank him enough for all I learned from him. He was a consummate professional who treated everyone from the brashest of rookies to the groundskeepers to the ushers in the stadium with the utmost of respect. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for Harmon Killebrew. He was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.”