Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review of "Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger"

Growing up in the Twin Cities and spending many days and nights at Metropolitan Stadium, I was excited to read this biography of Harmon Killebrew.  It brought back some nice memories.

“Harmon Killebrew: Ultimate Slugger” by Steve Aschburner

Baseball, biography, historical, Twins, Royals, Hall of Fame

May 2012
238 pages

3 of 5 stars (good)

It isn’t too often that a person will be able to read a biography of a childhood hero, but I got to do just that when this biography on Harmon Killebrew was written shortly after his death in May 2011.   Growing up in Minnesota during Killebrew’s playing days, I would often make sure I was near a radio or television whenever he came to the plate as there was always a good chance that another majestic blast would leave the ball park during that at-bat.   I was hoping to relive those days while reading this book.   While there were a few moments, they were few and far between.

That doesn’t mean the book was a bad one.  The author has been a writer covering many teams on the Minnesota sports scene for many years, and his knowledge came across in the book.  He told Killebrew’s story from his time on the Idaho farm to his early days of languishing on the Washington Senators’ bench as a “bonus baby” of that time to his heyday of home run hitting in the Twin Cities, through his last season in Kansas City and his post-baseball life.  It was written in a manner that was easy to read and comprehend.  The style will appeal to all levels of baseball fans, from hardcore to casual, as it is neither too complicated nor too easy.

My major disappointment could stem from being a lifetime Twins fan, as I didn’t glean much new information on Killebrew’s life – even his post-baseball life, as it was all the highlights told from a different point of view.  There wasn’t a lot of depth to these stories – that kept the reading easy, but the level of knowledge gained by a reader also suffers because of this style.   That didn’t keep me from enjoying this good, quick read.

Did I skim?

Did I learn something new?
Not a lot of the material was new or a surprise to me.  Even most of his life after baseball was familiar to me and this book didn’t share anything new.  Again, keep in mind I have followed the Twins and Killebrew since I first knew what a baseball was, so others may learn new information about Killebrew.

Pace of the book:
Excellent – moved along very quickly.  I finished this in less than three hours of total reading time. 

The timeline of the story went well – it stayed on track and didn’t stray too far off course. That is a preference I have because if there is constant back and forth, I find the book hard to follow.  There are also some more advanced statistics cited for Killebrew that were not used during the time he played, such as on-base percentage.   Seeing those statistics and how they measure against other players in the Hall of Fame was interesting.

Even though the book is 238 pages (in a smaller size than most hard covers), I thought the entire book skimmed through Killebrew’s career and the teams he played for a little too much.  Not enough that I thought I was reading a Cliff Notes version of his life story, but it still seemed that it could have been a little more detailed.  

Do I recommend?
Yes, for baseball fans that don’t follow the Twins or Killebrew regularly, it is full of good information that a casual fan will like and understand.

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  1. He was a gentleman in the purest sense of the word. When he hit one, it was crushed and there was never a doubt. He was stoic about his cancer and carried himself with the same dignity that he displayed all of his life.

  2. The book reinforces that characteristic of Killebrew being softspoken and a gentleman. He loved to invite others out to join him in a "milkshake." Also, your comment about there being no doubt when he hit one out made me think of how he often would watch one of his majestic blasts for a second or two before rounding the bases. Too bad others who now do that are only doing so for showmanship.