Harmon hit a couple for hurt boy

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2011 - 11:53 PM
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Jack Guiney meets hero Harmon Killebrew at a Manhattan hospital on May 20, 1964.

Photo: Walter Kelleher, Dml - Ny Daily News

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This is the stuff that legends are made of.

Eight-year-old Jack Guiney, hospitalized in New York for weeks with burns over half of his body, greeted his hero as he strode into the room on May 20, 1964.

It was Harmon Killebrew. The Twins slugger was in town for a two-game series with the Yankees.

Killebrew gave an autographed baseball to Jack, who pulled a ball glove from under his pillow and said, "Would you autograph my glove, too?"

After a little baseball chatter -- "I'm a shortstop," the bandaged boy said -- Killebrew made a deal with the lad: "If you hurry up and get well, the next time I'm in town, I'll take you out to the ball park and you can meet all the fellows."

With the afternoon game near, Killebrew said it was time he headed head to the stadium.

"I'll watch you on television," the blue-eyed, freckle-faced youngster said from his Manhattan hospital bed.

"Maybe I'll hit you a couple," Killebrew responded.

Sure enough, he did just that, starting with a two-run home run in the first inning. The second homer came on his last at-bat, a solo shot in the eighth inning, capping off the Twins' 7-4 victory.

The New York Daily News and Jack's father arranged the visit for the boy, whose altar boy robes caught fire as he was lighting candles at his parish church in Brooklyn. The newspaper's bedside photo appeared in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune the next day and was sent across the nation on the UPI picture wire.

Jack soon left the hospital and indeed was Killebrew's guest in New York nearly four months later when the Twins played the Yankees on Sept. 12, 1964, posing together for news photographers along the rail before the game. Killebrew gave him one of his bats.

And this time, Jack saw for himself Killebrew's awesome power when the Twins star belted a two-run homer deep into the left-field stands in the first inning.

Guiney is now 55 years old and lives in Queens, not far from where he met his childhood idol. That hospital visit 47 years ago "lifted my spirits. I watched the whole game from my hospital bed. I was shocked" when Killebrew made good on his two-home run call.

"[Last week] I was listening to the radio and heard he was sick," Guiney said. "I said a little prayer when I heard that."

Guiney said he took the news of Killebrew's death Tuesday pretty hard and can attest to what "they said in the paper -- that he was a great ballplayer but a greater human being."

Star Tribune staff writer Pamela Huey contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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