As Harmon Killebrew ends his cancer treatments and enters hospice care, the baseball world is left to remember his many contributions to the sport.
We're also left to again wonder if a long-time rumor is actually true. The iconic Minnesota Twins legend and Hall of Famer is said to be the inspiration for the silhouette in MLB's iconic logo, which was designed in 1968.
There are some noticeable similarities that quickly lend credence to the theory: A hard nose drawn with sharp lines. Strong wrists positioned parallel to the shoulders. A round helmet pushed over a determined brow. A right-handed stance, though the logo's design allows it also to be viewed as left-handed, depending on how you look at it. (Note: Despite this being the cause of a "bar fight," I just learned this Monday. My mind is officially blown.)
So is it Killebrew that we're seeing any time MLB wants to put its official stamp on something? Paul Lukas of ESPN's Uni Watch Blog did some extensive research on the rumor back in 2008 and found out that it cannot yet be confirmed. Read his article here.
Killebrew himself believes that he's in the middle of the logo and has told people of the Jerry West/NBA logo-type link for years. Meanwhile, Jerry Dior — the graphic designer generally credited for the logo's creation — claims that it is a composite he made from looking at a few different players.
Dior's claim should end the speculation right there, right? Well, here's the catch: Dior says he can't remember the specific player photographs he used to research the design and Killebrew says his claim is based on first-hand experience with something he saw.
"I was in the commissioner's office one day in the late 1960s ... and there was a man sitting at a table. He had a photograph of me in a hitting position, and he had one of those grease pencils that you see at a newspaper, and he was marking that thing up. I said, 'What are you doing with that?' and he said they were going to make a new Major League Baseball logo. I never thought any more about it. And then the logo came out and it did look like me. The only change was the angle of the bat — they changed that to kind of make it fit more into the design."
As Lukas and his detail-obsessed readers point out, there are a few players from the '60s who could have fit the description and it doesn't take too much to imagine another player serving as the model. So because Killebrew's stance wasn't as completely unique as, say, Julio Franco's, we're probably never going to reach the universal conclusion that it's him in that logo. Especially with that change in the angle of the bat.
Still, it's interesting to note that Killbrew's outstanding career, with its 573 home runs, was so iconic that such a claim could be repeated and accepted as fact for years without anyone questioning the tie further. Even if one of Killebrew's photos never passed over Dior's design desk, it's easy to see why so many people wanted to make the connection.
In a way, that's an even greater tribute to Killebrew than an outright acknowledgement he's the mystery man in the middle of Major League Baseball's official mark.