At a stocky 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, Mr. Killebrew had a compact swing that produced some of the longest home runs of his era.
In 1962, he became the first right-handed hitter to slug a ball over the left-field roof of Tiger Stadium in Detroit, 94 feet above the playing field. On June 3, 1967, one of his home runs shattered two seats in the upper deck of Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. The seats, more than 520 feet from home plate, were painted orange as a lasting symbol of Mr. Killebrew’s prowess.
Paul Richards, a former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, once said, “Killebrew can knock the ball out of any park, including Yellowstone.”
Mr. Killebrew, who had the distinction of being the only Washington Senator discovered by a U.S. senator, made his big-league debut in 1954, six days before his 18th birthday. He catapulted to fame as the Senators’ third baseman in a 17-day period in May 1959 — he hit two home runs in each of five games.
He was named to the All-Star team in 1959 and, by season’s end, had belted 42 home runs, sharing the American League home-run title with Rocky Colavito of the Cleveland Indians.
After the 1960 season, the Senators left Washington and became the Minnesota Twins, and Mr. Killebrew burnished his legend as one of the greatest power hitters of all time. His 393 home runs from 1960 through 1969 were more than any other big-league player that decade.
During his career, he led the American League in home runs six times and in runs batted in (RBI) three times. He was named the league’s most valuable player in 1969. His eight seasons of 40 or more home runs are tied for second in major league history, behind Babe Ruth’s 11 seasons.
Mr. Killebrew hit his first big-league home run at Washington’s Griffith Stadium on June 24, 1955, when he was 18. In a game against the Detroit Tigers, he often recalled, the opposing catcher, Frank House, said, “Kid, we’re going to throw you a fastball.”
Mr. Killebrew hit the ball 476 feet — by measure of the Senators’ public relations director — or almost 100 feet beyond the left-field fence.
“As I was coming around the bases,” Mr. Killebrew told Baseball Digest magazine in 2004, “I stepped on home plate and Frank House said, ‘Kid, that’s the last time we’re ever going to tell you what’s coming.’ ”
Harmon Clayton Killebrew Jr. was born June 29, 1936, in Payette, Idaho. His father was a college football star at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The younger Mr. Killebrew worked on ranches in his youth and grew up 15 miles from Weiser, Idaho, where Washington Senator great Walter Johnson had pitched for a semipro team in 1906 and 1907.