1954: Harmon Killebrew’s Debut

Wednesday June 23, 1954

Take it away, Shirley Povich:

At long last, the Senators have taken the ice-cold plunge into the bonus baby market, in contrast to their refusal for years to dip even a gingerly toe into the heavy-money waters. Their prize, or what they hope to be such, is Harmon Killebrew, 17-year-old wonder boy from Payette, Idaho.

Clark Griffith, who separated himself from $30,000 to sign Killebrew, a semi-pro infielder from the Idaho-Oregon Border League, had a special sort of inspiration, perhaps. The last semi-pro the Washington club signed from the state of Idaho was in 1907, and he answered to the name of Walter Johnson.

The much hyped “bonus-baby” made his first appearance in a major league game as a pinch-runner. With the Nats down 5-1 in the fifth inning, Clyde Vollmer pinch-hit for the pitcher Chuck Stobbs. Vollmer was hit by a pitch, forcing Pete Runnels home with the team’s second run. Enter Killebrew as the runner at first base. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was stranded there.

Because of his bonus-baby status, Killebrew had to remain with the major league team, but he didn’t see much actio that first year. His next appearance was July 18. He made two more appearances in the month of July, both as a pinch-runner. He scored his first major league run on July 27th.


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