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The time David Letterman dedicated an entire show to Harmon Killebrew

Remember that time David Letterman made a whole show about Harmon?
Remember that time David Letterman made a whole show about Harmon?
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

As you may have heard, tonight is David Letterman's final show on The Late Show. After a record setting 34 years hosting the show, he's calling it quits. Several Twins had memorable appearances on the show, including Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett (who doesn't remember the "Top Ten Ways to Mispronounce 'Kirby Puckett'"?).

But it was Harmon Killebrew who had the most memorable appearance on The Late Show, when Dave dedicated an entire episode to the slugger in 1986.

The story goes something like this:

Dave Letterman had been hosting The Late Show for only four years in 1985 when he came up with "The First Annual Holiday Film Festival". The idea was that Dave asked a number of notable figures to make short films, and he played them on the show.

Letterman grew up as a baseball fan in Indianapolis. Because Indiana doesn't have a MLB team, and Indianapolis sounds like "Minneapolis", Dave adopted Harmon Killebrew as one of his favorite players. So when "The First Annual Holiday Film Festival" idea came about, Dave called Harm and asked him to make one of the videos.

Harmon said no.

David pleaded.

Harmon said, "No, thanks."

But David insisted, and flew a camera crew out to Idaho along with $10,000 to cover production costs. Harmon gave in, and made a video for the show. The only problem was, Dave's show went long, and after showing the videos by Bette Midler, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin and Harry Shearer, Harmon's video got cut.

Letterman was mortified.

Dave called up Harmon and apologized, and promised to dedicate an entire show to Killebrew. Harmon was at this point even more reluctant than he had been earlier, but when Dave promised he would get Harmon's favorite singer, Charley Pride, to sing for him, Harmon agreed.

On February 26, 1986, Dave Letterman had "Harmon Killebrew Night":


Can't watch the video? Well I hope at least ONE of you can't, because I stayed up all night transcribing the whole dang thing. Without further ado:


Letterman: We're going to devote our entire program to one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew.

Killebrew: Thanks Dave

Letterman: You had a terrific career--573 home runs, perennial all-star--but you're a champion off the field as well: a loving husband, and a caring father.

Killebrew: Dave, I've also got a car dealership.

Letterman: Yeah, right, uh... Right. Harmon, some folks up there in the last row want to know if they can have a souvenir before we start. What do you think?

Killebrew: Well, it's been awhile, but I'll do my best.

*Harmon hits a low ball into the crowd and a woman screams bloody murder*

Letterman: Uh, well don't move her. Get some ice on that. [turns to Harmon] So how are you feeling?

Killebrew: I feel fine.

Letterman: You still got a really nice swing. You really got some wood on that.

Killewbrew: Yeah well I got good wood in both places.

Letterman: Nice job.

Killebrew: Ok.

*Classic clips of Harmon Killebrew mashing taters as The Late Show theme begins*

Shaffer: From New York, where a movie called "Minnesota Twins" has been playing in Times Square for 6 years [Editor's Note: heh], it's Late Night with David Letterman! Tonight, Late Night salutes Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew!

*Classic clips of Harmon continue to play along to the theme music *

Shaffer: With Harmon's old friends, Bob Allison! Harmon's favorite singer, Charley Pride! And, a very special visit, from a very special guest. AND, a commemorative painting by LeRoy Nimon! Also, a World Premier of the film made by... Harmon Killebrew!

*Classic Harmon clips, music*

Shaffer: AND NOW! The commissioner of Major League Baseball:

*Video of a Harmon Killebrew home run sailing out of the park plays*


*David Letterman enters the stage as Shaffer rocks out wearing a Twins "TC" cap*

Letterman: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen! You have selected a great night to tune in. Tonight, can you feel the electricity in the building?

*Audience screams*

Letterman: That's interesting, because we broadcast every night from the electricity building. But you know, ladies and gentlemen, tonight is Harmon Killebrew night. The stock market closed earlier today--

*Loud applause from the audience*

Letterman: Someone's probably asleep on the switch.


Letterman: Hospitals rescheduled surgery and alternate side of the street parking has been suspended. Why? Why, you're saying? Is it because of the big storm, Dave? Probably. But, you know, in addition to that, it's Harmon Killebrew Night, and let me explain how this came about.

A couple of months ago in November of '85, we did a program that was a film festival kind of show, We had people on the show doing films: Bette Midler did one, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin Harry Shearer, the band was in a video, and our friend Harmon Killebrew also made a film for us. Unfortunately, because of time restraints, we didn't get a chance to have Harmon's film on that particular program. But we thought, 'What the heck." Rather than waste a perfectly good film--or more accurately, rather than waste $60,000--we'd come up with Harmon Killebrew night, and it's tonight ladies and gentlemen, and we think it's going to be darn, fine viewing. Right Paul?

Shaffer: Yes, Dave.

Letterman: Ladies and gentlemen, our musical director for the festivities, Mr. Paul Shaffer.

Shaffer: Thank you, thank you very much. I have to say I am exceptionally thrilled because it's Harmon Killebrew night.

Letterman: You know the team for the hat you are wearing?

Shaffer: This hat here?

Letterman: Yeah.

Shaffer: Yes. Of course I do.

Letterman: What is the team?

Shaffer: It's the, uh, team from Fort William and Port Arthur, the Twin Cities of Canada.

Letterman: No, no no no. It's Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Twin cities. The Minnesota Twins.

Shaffer: The Minnesota Twins!

Letterman: That's where Harmon spent most of his career.

Shaffer: Of course I know that.

Letterman: He played for three other, two other teams. He played for the Senators, and also Kansas City, right? Kansas City Athletics or the Kansas City Royals? [inaudible off-stage] Athletics? Wha--[inaudible off the other side of the stage] it's Royals. That's Harmon back there. That's where Harmon played. Harmon's happy to be here and ready to go.


Letterman: Because it is Harmon Killebrew night, folks, let me show you what every member of our studio audience gets this evening. First of all, all of the gentlemen in the audience receive one of these

*Dave holds up a window shield scraper*

Letterman: It's the Harmon Killebrew Night Wind Shield Scraper, with the date.

*Audience cheers*

Letterman: All the women in the audience receive the lovely Harmon Killebrew Night rain bonnet

*One woman in the audience cheers particularly loudly*

Letterman: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen--these are premium giveaways. Are you Ready Paul?

Shaffer: Yeah!

Letterman: Here we go. The man we are honoring tonight hit 573 home runs in his 21 year career, he had a life-time batting average of .256, he holds the Major League record for Intentional Walks, and with over 8,000 at-bats, he never once bunted.

*One guy in the audience laughs loudly*

Letterman: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Hall-of-Famer, Harmon Killebrew!

*Standing ovation as Harmon Killebrew walks out under a spotlight and sits down*

Letterman: Yes sir! Harmon, nice to see ya.

Killebrew: Thank you Dave, it's nice to be with you finally.

Letterman: Tell the people what you've been doing since you stopped playing ball in, uh, 1975?

Killebrew: 1975 was my last year, and it was the Kansas City Royals.

Letterman: Royals. When did the Kansas City Athletics leave Kansas City and go west?

Killebrew: I knew you were going to ask me that, I'm not sure what year that was.

Letterman: Earlier though?

Killebrew: I think '69 was the first year for the Kansas City Royals [Editor's Note: Nice].

Letterman: And what have you been doing since then?

Killebrew: I've been doing a little television, baseball broadcasting--

Letterman: You're the voice of the Twins?

Killebrew: Well, I wouldn't say that. I'm just one of the broadcasters. I do the television broadcast.

Letterman: And where do you live in the off-season?

Killebrew: We live in Ontario, Oregon.

Letterman: Nice town?

Killebrew: Well, I think so. It's a great town, a small town.

Letterman: Now, we mentioned Harmon that you had done a film for us and we were unable to air it that night, but we have the film you did and we are going to show it tonight in its entirety. But before we see the whole film, we have here just a couple of seconds of that movie--a clip, so to speak--of the film. Tell the people what they're gonna see here

Killebrew: Well, Dave, you were kind enough to send a film crew out to Idaho and Oregon to do this, and it's just kind of a day in my life out there, I think, uh.

Letterman: Ok! So this is a teaser of what you're going to be seeing later in its entirety, a film featuring Harmon Killebrew. Watch carefully, I think you'll enjoy it.

*Video starts*

*Car driving down a road*

*Mountains in the distance*

*Car stops and Harmon gets out and turns to the camera*

Hi! I'm Harmon Killebrew.

*Video ends*

Letterman: Pretty good! Pretty good!

*Harmon, sitting on The Late Show stage next to Dave, smiles like 'Thanks, I know I'm good.'*

Letterman: So Harmon, you're in the Hall of Fame, you went in about, what? Two years ago?

Killebrew: Two years ago.

Letterman: That was a big thrill obviously. What was your biggest thrill in baseball, as a player?

Killebrew: Well, I suppose it's everyone's dream to play in the World Series, I know it was mine, and we realized that dream in 1965.

Letterman: Played the Dodgers?

Killebrew: Played against the Dodgers. Koulfax, Drysdale, Ed Group (?) and we lost in seven games.

Letterman: What kind of series did you have?

Killebrew: Ah, not too bad. I got lucky a couple of times. Got a few hits.

Letterman: Yes. Who were some of your contemporaries?

Killebrew: On my ball club, or...?

Letterman: Yeah. Just guys you played with. The guys in your peer group.

Killebrew: Well, I guess I played against guys like Mantle, Kaline, and that area.

Letterman: Was Billy Martain before you, a little bit?

Killebrew: Billy was before me, with me, after me, and uh...

*Audience giggles*

Letterman: Do you stay in touch with Billy much?

Killebrew: Occasionally. I was with the Oakland ballclub doing broadcasts when Billy was the manager out there.

Letterman: Are you friendly with Billy?

Killebrew: Sure

Letterman: When's the last time you talked to Billy?

Killebrew: Uhhh...

*Audience laughs*

Killebrew: Been a little while.

Letterman: Tough to get a hold of, is he?

Killebrew: Yeah.

Letterman: You know Harmon, to commemorate a special night--not just a special night, but a special career and a special man--we've asked world-famous artist Leroy Nimon here tonight, and during the show he's going to be capturing all of the magic of Harmon Killebrew Night on canvas. There he is at work.

*Dave gestures towards a man in a bright pink polo off-stage painting a giant portrait of Dave and Harmon*

Letterman: And he'll finish that up during the show, and I guess [yelling at LeRoy] CAN HARMON HAVE THAT, LEROY?

LeRoy: No.

Letterman: So, apparently he is open to negotiations, but uh, alright! We have quite a show here. Thanks for being with us. Please come back, it's Harmon Killebrew night.

*Excerpt from Harmon Killebrew's movie of Harmon wondering what killed the dinosaurs*


Letterman: As well as your best friend, former outfielder and first baseman, all the way from St. Paul, Bob Allison!

*Twins Legend Bob Allison comes out on stage, shakes hands with Dave Letterman, and slaps Harmon's hand*

Letterman: Now, you uh, live in St. Paul

*Bob Allison still adjusting his chair*

Letterman: Uh, what's the matter Bob?

Allison: Where's the ice cream?

Letterman: There's no ice cream.

Allison: Oh.

*Allison sits down*

Letterman: Did Harmon eat a lot of ice cream?"

Allison: Oh, by the gallons.

Letterman: Is that right? When you guys were playing, Harmon would eat ice cream?

Allison: Yes.

Killebrew: Don't tell him that kind of stuff.

Allison: Every night!

Letterman: So you live in St. Paul now, and Harmon lives in Oregon. When was the last time you guys saw one another?

*Bob Allison pauses and looks at Harmon*

Allison: Last week?

Killebrew: Yeah, we had lunch together the other day.

Letterman: Oh! This is a touching reunion, isn't it?

*Audience laughs*

Letterman: There's not a dry eye in the house. So, where did you guys first meet? You started playing minor league ball together, right?

Killebrew: Are you asking Bob or me?

Letterman: Whoever can handle this question.


Letterman: Oh, Olando, Florida. What year?

Allison: 1955.

Letterman: What position did you play?

Allison: Outfield.

Letterman: And where did you bat in the order?

Allison: Behind him.

*Allison points at Harmon*

Letterman: And was that good, or probably not a good idea to be batting behind Harmon was it?

*Harmon laughing lightly*

Allison: I will always remember his swing. I saw it [the ball] most of the time in the dirt after he hit a home run.

Letterman: That's because the pitcher, was trying to take a little revenge there?

Allison: Oh, yeah.

Letterman: So he took it out on you?

Allison: Always.

Letterman: We have some footage here of, uh, well take a look at it here. This is from a Twins game, it's Bob Allison at the plate and Harmon is on base somewhere.

*Old clip of Allison driving Harmon in on a sac-fly*

Letterman: Now, is that how it went, pretty much?

Killebrew: Well that was unusual! Because that was just a short fly ball, Dave, and I didn't score on many of those short fly balls!

Letterman: But you looked great! Nice slide!

Killebrew: Well I got an RBI and I got a run scored.

Letterman: What are you doing now, Bob?

Allison: Manager, Coke-a-Cola Bali [?] Midwest, Minneapolis-St.Paul.

Letterman: And do you sell those Cokes one at a time, Bob?

Allison: Dave, we'll sell them any way you want.

Letterman: Ha! Now you guys, through most of your professional careers, you were roommates, right?

Killebrew: Correct.

Letterman: Ok, we got a little chart here.

*Dave pulls out a large chart of a hotel room floor plant*

Letterman: Now you stayed in hotels at least half the season, when you were on the road, right?

Killebrew and Allison: Right.

Letterman: Ok. Here's a typical hotel room floor plan. And we have here, uh, Bob.

*Dave reaches for a magnet of Bob's head*

Killebrew: No, wait a minute, I usually came in the room first.

Letterman: Uh, ok. Harmon, you would come in first.

*Puts magnet of Harmon Killebrew's head in the hotel room floor plan on the large chart*

Letterman: Make sure the coast was clear.

Killebrew: First thing I usually checked out was the television set.

Letterman: Uh, ok, so that would be you there by the TV.

*Moves magnet of Harmon Killebrew's head to right in front of the TV*

Killebrew: And then I wanted to get the good position where I could watch the TV most of the time.

Letterman: So which bed did you usually take?

Killebrew: The one by the window.

Letterman: Ok, so then Bob would come in later--

Killebrew: Much later.

Letterman: OH? Is that right? Ok. And then Bob would select that bed right there.

*Dave puts the magnet of Bob's head on the hotel bed closest to the door*

Killebrew: Yeah, usually, take what's left...

Letterman: OH! What do we have here!

*Letterman slaps a magnets of an air-flight attendant on the board in between the two hotel beds*

Letterman: Oh gosh! It looks like a stewardess!

*Harmon and Bob laugh heartily*

Letterman: Someone call security!

*Dave throws the whole board off-stage*

*Audience applauds as they all laugh*

Letterman: Bob, we want to thank you for coming down here to help celebrate Harmon Killebrew Night, we want you to stay and enjoy the show, we have a place of honor for you up in the studio audience, let me take you up there now, and then we'll continue with the show. An Bob, I think once you get up here you'll see someone else you're going to recognize. Do you recognize this man in the tan jacket?

Allison: He looks like a left-hander.

Letterman: This gentleman is Mr. Jim Kaat. Jim, it's nice to have you here. A teammate of Harmon's. Pitched Major League ball for over 25 years?

Kaat: Yes.

Letterman: Last year was pitching coach with the Cincinnati Reds, and, uh, this season you're going to be doing what?

Kaat: Broadcasting on channel 11 for the Yankees.

Letterman: Well congratulations, nice to have you here Jim! Enjoy the show.

*Bob and Jim sit down next to each other in the audience*

Letterman: Oh my god, it is a magic night! But we have to do a commercial, and then we'll be right back with more of Harmon Killebrew Night!

*Clip from Harmon's video, showing his awards and trophies, Harmon narrating: "I used to come down here and point out one trophy over another. Now I just bring them down here and let it wash over them."*

-commercial break-

Letterman: I'm sure he's one of your favorite performers, say hello to Mr. Showmanship--Liberace!

*Liberace comes out on stage waving and blowing kisses and sits down next to Harmon Killebrew*

Letterman: First of all, Liberace, thank you so much for being here to celebrate Harmon Killebrew Night.

Killebrew: You know...

Letterman: You have a question, Harmon? Go right ahead.

Killewbree: I recall now what he's talking about, because Barbara Streisand was an unknown at that time.

Liberace: Yes she was! She, uh, had made a hit record, "Happy Days are Here Again", and I saw her in New York in the Village, and then Mason St.[?] east, and she was on the Ed Sullivan Show with me, and I just fell in love with this girl's talent the moment I heard her open her mouth and sing. She was such a dynamic artist, and "I gotta have this girl in my show in Las Vegas!" So my manager mentioned I was going to bring Barbara Streisand and the bosses at the Riviera said, "Who's she?" You know? And I said she's going to be a big, big star. And after our show, we went from Vagas to Lake Tahoe, and then right after that she went to "Funny Girl" on Broadway. Yeah!

Letterman: Ok, enough of that crap.

*Audience erupts in laughter*

Letterman: Liberace, did you know of Harmon when he was playing?

Liberace: Oh, well I certainly heard of him! Yes! He ranks right up there with Babe Ruth.

Letterman: Yes! As a matter of fact, I think you are like third on the list for average home runs per at bat, or something? Or how many games it worked out to a home run or something?

Killebrew: Something like that. I don't know. I'm not quite sure myself.

Letterman [to Liberace]: And you're from Milwaukee originally?

Liberace: Yes, the Milwaukee Braves.

Letterman: Did you go out and see the Braves play when you were a kid?

Liberace: Oh, when I was a kid? Sure, yeah!

Letterman: Did you ever play any ball yourself?

Liberace: Well, I tried it in school and someone hit me with the bat and that was the end of it.

Letterman [to Killebrew]: And have you ever seen Liberace play?

Killebrew: Yes I have. I've always enjoyed listening to him.

Letterman: So here it is now--does it have a title? I don't know.

Killebrew: I don't know what the title is.

Letterman: Well here it is now, folks. The Harmon Killebrew Movie. We certainly hope you'll enjoy it.

*Eight Minute video of Harmon Killebrew screwing around in Idaho plays*

Letterman: Very nice, Harmon. That was terriffic.

Killebrew: Well I'm glad to be here now. You have a great crew.

-commerical break-

Letterman: We'd like to retire, right here on this program, and have it preserved,  in kind of a Shrine-Like atmosphere, for eternity, your sports jacket. so just give it.

Killebrew: Dave this is kind of--

Letterman: Bring down the Hanger here.

*Letterman directs a hanger from the rafters being lowered down*

Killebrew: This is kind of an expensive sports coat!

Letterman: It is a beauty! But this is quite the honor here.

Killebrew: Uh... ok.

*Harmon takes off his jacket and gives it to Letterman*

Letterman: So let me put thins on the hanger--it's a nice wooden hanger.

Killebrew: It's lovely.

Letterman: Let me slip it on to there. Okay. And we're going to suspend this, from now, until the end of time, from the rafters above our stage. PAUL! You have another little tribute of your own you'd like to add for the evening? Go right ahead, Paul.

Shaffer (singing): "Harmon Killebrew! Just say the name... I start to think about that long home run. A sharp line drive... A dislocated elbow back in '65! Harmon Killebrew! You went from Payette, Idaho straight to the Hall of Fame... Yes! So tonight we're paying tribute to that magic name! That's you! That's you, Mr. Harmon Killebrew!"


Harmon's sport coat remained hanging in the rafters at The Late Night stage until David Letterman moved TV stations and studios (which tends to happen when you're around for a long time).

The last night the Killebew family gathered with Harmon, they watched The Late Show episode. "We were all there, all his kids, and we had a really good time," Ken Killebrew, Harmon's son, told the Pioneer Press. "We put on the David Letterman show (DVD) that we hadn't seen since Dad was on it, when they had 'Harmon Killebrew Night.'

"(Twins teammate) Bob Allison was on, and Charley Pride, who Dad loved, sang a song for him," Ken said. Ken said his siblings watched the Letterman video together with their father, who enjoyed seeing it again.

"We laughed; all five of us kids sat around and watched it," he said. "Dad got a good kick out of it."


The KARE 11 video doesn't include the whole episode, but it's still marvelous.

Thanks Dave, and RIP Harmon Killebrew.