Natitude was a potent force last fall, and with every new season, Washington becomes more of a baseball town. Again. Once upon a time, the District was a madhouse for everything that happened between the foul lines. The Washington Senators, the town’s first franchise, became a team in 1901, one of the American League’s Original Eight, and captivated the mid-Atlantic with six decades of baseball magic. The team moved to Minneapolis for the 1961 season, and brought with it a young slugger named Harmon Killebrew.
My four decades in Minnesota, and my love of baseball has made me an avid Twins fan, and stories about Killebrew’s power hitting were the stuff of legends in my home. I remember how he nearly single-handedly drove the Twins to the ’65 World Series, and only Sandy Koufax, at his most brilliant, was able to keep Minnesota from taking Game 7. Killebrew’s legend is a core part of any Twins fan’s essential education. It should be part of Washington’s, too.
Like so many who spend time in this town, I’ve adopted the Nationals as my “second team,” and have had a blast over the last few years watching the wild wooly men of Washington chase the pennant. It’s been great to see a classic baseball town reignited behind such an exciting team. Washington has a long and storied love affair with America’s pastime, recent history notwithstanding. And one of its great talents, Killebrew, has the opportunity to be commemorated in a fitting tribute.
This year, the USPS Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee is reviewing a handful of submissions to be honored on a commemorative stamp, to be decided in 2015. “Hammerin’ Harmon” is a finalist to be honored, and who could be more deserving and representative of a baseball tradition that stretches from Industry Square in Minneapolis to Navy Yard in Washington?
Killebrew was as well known for his sportsmanship, both on and off the field, as he was for his slugging ability at the plate. He drove in more than 100 runs on nine separate occasions over is 22 year career, beginning in Washington as a young slugger and growing quickly to become the team’s emotional leader. Even when Harmon and the Senators left Washington after the 1959 season, he left behind a legacy of power hitting excitement at the ballpark that would always be a core part of the capital city’s baseball tradition.
The last nine years have shown that D.C. is truly a baseball town. The entire city gets ginned up for every moment of the long season, from opening day through the dog days of August, and as deep into October as pitching, hitting and luck will allow. As important and exciting as it is to look ahead to Washington’s baseball future, though, it’s just as important to remember its past. “Hammerin Harmon” is such a key part of that. And though small, a commemorative stamp would be a perfect vehicle for that remembrance. Baseball fans everywhere could look back on his legend with fondness, and certainly Minnesotans and Washingtonians, new and old, could look on it with pride.
Norm Coleman, former senator from Minnesota, currently serves as of counsel at Hogan Lovells LLP. Want More Stories Like This? Subscribe to our Thought Leaders Newsletter.