The world of baseball mourns the passing of Harmon Killebrew--a stalwart of the Minnesota Twins ball club from 1961 to 1974--and a new generation of baseball fans is marveling at Killebrew's batting record, in particular his eight seasons with 40 or more home runs. This ties him for second in this category, behind Babe Ruth. He shares his mark with Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez will likely tie him some day--A-Rod has seven 40-homer seasons to date.
But in what context did Killebrew post his impressive power numbers? A quick visit to the non-profit baseball statistics website retrosheet.org uncovered the names of the pitchers Killebrew abused during his run. He hit against some of the best. The list of pitchers who offered up home-run tosses to Killebrew includes Jim Palmer (4), Jim Bunning (5), Vida Blue (3), Whitey Ford (2), and Tommy John (6). Rollie Fingers contributed four more, as did Catfish Hunter. Luis Tiant chipped in five more.
Don Larsen evidently had Killebrew's number; the Killer faced Larsen 31 times and walked away with no home runs and a meek .226 slugging percentage. Nolan Ryan did a good job avoiding the sight of Killebrew's home-run trots too--Killebrew faced Ryan's fastball 27 times and managed to squeeze one homer out of the confrontations.
Who got the worst of it? Joe Horlen. The White Sox right-hander faced Killebrew 96 times and gave up eight home runs, eight doubles, and 16 walks. Horlen is perhaps better remembered for his 1.88 ERA in 1964, and his 19-7 record in 1967, which included a clutch no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers late in a highly contested pennant race.