McClure, White recall Killebrew with fondness

McClure, White recall Killebrew with fondness

KANSAS CITY -- Frank White was a young second baseman with the Royals when Harmon Killebrew finished his Hall of Fame career with one final season with Kansas City in 1975. So White played with, as well as against, Killebrew, who passed away on Tuesday.

"I played against him when he was with the Twins, also, and watched him hit a few home runs," said White, now a Royals broadcaster. "I think I circled around one of his popups one night in Kansas City -- he hit them so high -- and I still haven't caught it. When he hit home runs, he hit them real high; he used a real skinny bat, a S-44, a real small bat.

"He was just a nice guy, a real professional guy. I remember he and Fran Healy used to hang out together after games, and they'd go get milkshakes every day. Just a pretty clean-cut guy. For a young guy, being around a veteran, he was an outstanding guy to ask for help, and he really helped me a lot."

In Kansas City, the only season he didn't play for Washington or Minnesota, Killebrew was the designated hitter and played 106 games, with 14 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .199 average.

"He just kind of fit right in," White said. "We brought him in as a DH to help the club, and just to watch him go about his business, he was very professional."

Bob McClure, now the Royals' pitching coach, was a rookie pitcher on that 1975 club with Killebrew.

"It was his last year and my first year," McClure recalled. "One day, he said, 'Bobby, come over here for a second.' So I went over, and he was real nice. He said, 'The first thing I want to suggest to you is never go into the training room.' This is 1975 and I really didn't understand what he was saying, because in the Minor Leagues, there really weren't any training rooms. So I asked, 'Why's that?' And I didn't even know where the training room was. And he said, 'Well, if you're in the training room and the trainer's working on you, and the manager sees you and then you don't pitch well and somebody's pitching pretty good at Triple-A, there's a good chance they'll bring him up, and you may never get your job back.' So back then, if [you] needed to put ice on your arm or something, you'd do it back in the hotel room. I remember not going in the training room for quite a few years."

McClure smiled at the memory of the big, friendly Killebrew.

"He used to ask me all the time, 'Hey, c'mon, kid, let's go out and have a milkshake,'" McClure said. "He was very kindhearted, and I was a little bit in awe of him. This was Harmon Killebrew. As good a player as he was, he was a finer man."