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Harmon Killebrew Post Office Building

Floor Speech

Date: July 16, 2018
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LABRADOR. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3230, a bill that honors Idaho's greatest athlete and one of our great humanitarians.

H.R. 3230 names the post office in Payette, Idaho, after Harmon Killebrew, a Hall of Fame baseball player who later built an incredible legacy of charitable work.

Idahoans take great pride in Harmon Killebrew's success, and rightfully so. Killebrew's career began in 1954 when Herman Welker, the U.S. Senator from Idaho, tipped off the owner of the Washington Senators, Clark Griffith, about the 17-year-old slugger.

Griffith sent a scout, who almost didn't get to see Killebrew play. After a night of rain, groundkeepers burned gasoline to make the field playable. Killebrew did his part by hitting a ball 435 feet into a Payette beet field.

Immediately signed as a $12,000 bonus baby, Killebrew debuted a few weeks later. During his 22-year career with the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, and Kansas City Royals, he hit 573 home runs, more than all but four major league players at the time of his retirement.

He was the American league's most valuable player in 1969, hitting 49 home runs and driving in 140 runs. He played in 13 All-Star games and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

Killebrew built his strength lifting 10-gallon milk cans on Idaho dairies and leveraged his work ethic into legendary status. For fans across America, Killebrew was beloved for remaining the down-to-Earth farm kid who signed a major league contract before turning 18.

Twins teammate, Rich Reese, called him ``one of the classiest people I've ever met in my life. . . . he treated people with respect, even with the stature that he had.''

Asked what he liked to do for fun, Killebrew once said, ``Well, I like to wash dishes, I guess.'' In the off season, he worked feeding cows, selling men's clothing, and reading gas meters.

After retirement from baseball, he sold insurance, ran a car dealership, and worked as a broadcaster.

In 1976, Killebrew helped found the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley, Idaho, now called the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial. The event benefits cancer research.

The Harmon Killebrew Foundation, founded in 1998, with his wife, Nita, has built more than a dozen Miracle League fields designed for kids with disabilities, including one named for him in Payette. The baseball and football fields at Payette High School are also named for Killebrew.

Killebrew died of cancer in 2011 at age 74 after entering into hospice care, a treatment he had advocated for for years. At his memorial service, his wife read a tribute from a fan: ``Harmon is an extraordinary, beautiful, loving, compassionate human being, who also happens to be a legendary baseball player.''

In the days after his death, his high school team, the Payette Pirates, made an improbable run for a State championship. Entering the district tournament with a losing record, the Pirates won four straight to reach the State title game. The team wore HK patches on their sleeves. ``Harmon's been with us the entire time,'' said one player. The Pirates finally lost to a 25-1 Fruitland team, taking home the second-place trophy.

``He is still touching people,'' said Nita Killebrew, who worked with my office on the bill and lives in Meridian. Killebrew's legacy of generosity lives on, and it is appropriate to honor his legacy with the legislation we are considering today.

I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for H.R. 3230. Through this bill, we will recognize one of Idaho's greatest stars, and we will advance the legacy of one of America's most charitable athletes.