#1: One Last Time...
Harmon Killebrew was a member of eleven American League All-Star teams between 1958 and 1971, with the last nine all in a row. In those 13 seasons he averaged a .923 OPS with 39 homers, 104 RBI, 100 walks and 102 strikeouts in 145 games. It's no wonder he was called upon so regularly as a representative of baseball's elite.
In 1971 Killebrew was a member of the mid-summer classic for one last time. The American League hadn't won an All-Star game since one of the two that were held in 1962 (yes, baseball held two All-Star games from 1959 - 1962). But Harmon wouldn't let the National League extend their winning streak to nine seasons.
With Detroit's Norm Cash getting the start at first, Killebrew watched from the bench as the NL built a familiar lead thanks to a two-run blast from Johnny Bench and a solo shot from Hank Aaron. The American League wasn't quite ready to fold, however, as Reggie Jackson (in his lone plate appearance of the game) belted a two-run homer while pinch hitting for starting pitcher Vida Blue of the Athletics. The next batter was Rod Carew, who walked, and three hitters later yet another ball rained into the seats when Frank Robinson tallied the second two-run blast of the inning.
Just like that, the AL led 4-3.
Killebrew took over at first in the top of the sixth. In the bottom half of the frame Al Kaline coaxed a walk from Fergie Jenkins. And in stepped Killer.
One more time the AL went deep, this time off the bat of our 35-year old would-be Hall of Famer. Killer's shot went deep to left field, and in a game where a one-run lead is never safe (particularly against a lineup of All-Star hitters) it's more than safe to say that it was Killebrew's charge that put the nail in the NL's proverbial coffin. That single play, Harmon's third and final home run of his mid-summer classic career, raised the American League's chances of winning from 78% to 92%. And it was a cold dagger to the hopes of the NL for extending their winning streak.
The additional runs would be huge, as Roberto Clemente homered in the eighth to close the gap to 6-4. Killer's bomb truly was the difference. And now you also can answer this trivia question: in which All-Star game were all runs scored off six home runs? The '71 game.
In his All-Star career, Killebrew hit .308/.357/.654 with three homers and six runs batted in. With that one final blast he left the summer game to another generation of players, but combining that hit with the fact that he was a critical part of helping the American League win their first game since 1962, well, it couldn't have been a more fitting farewell.
BONUS VIDEO: We don't get to see Killebrew's home run here, but it's talked about.