Tue May 17 02:58pm EDT
The United States is littered with landmarks designating the spots where great ballparks used to stand and great players used to play. That said, the Mall of America's standing tribute to Hall of Fame member Harmon Killebrew — who passed away from cancer Tuesday morning at age 74 — is arguably the most unique of the bunch.
The red seat you see on the right side of the above photo commemorates the 522-foot homer that Killebrew hit off the Angels' Lew Burdette on June 3, 1967. Though it now overlooks the "Log Chute" ride at Mall of America's amusement park, the chair is said to be mounted at the spot where Killebrew's homer landed in the second deck of the Minnesota Twins' old Metropolitan Stadium. The ballpark used to stand on the site of the shopping center's grounds in Bloomington, Minn., and a plaque marking the spot of The Met's old home plate is also located within the amusement park.
Both locations are bound to get a lot more attention this week as the baseball world mourns the loss of one of its greatest home run hitters. In fact, Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin made special mention of the seat in his excellent tribute to Killebrew.
When the Met was razed, and replaced by the Mall of America, Killebrew's red bleacher seat was bolted high above the mall's central atrium, in roughly the same space it occupied at the ballpark. It is there to this day, a permanent testament to one man's baseball-crushing powers, on a street still called Killebrew Drive, now and forever a Boulevard of Broken Seams.
I suppose the new location of the seat is uber-sad in a Judge Doom, nothing can stop progress sort of way. But at least the many visitors the Mall of America attracts each year can get a little impromptu lesson in Twins history en route to buying a new sweater or an iPad or whatever. In other words: It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative.
Speaking of that homer off Burdette, it was initially estimated at only 435 feet by the Twins' official scorer. But because Killebrew's prodigious blast was clearly headed even farther had the second deck not stopped its momentum, the Twins were compelled to contact a physics professor to calculate the true distance. An interesting Pioneer Press story from 2006 notes that the distance chart created by that professor is still used by the Twins to estimate the length of today's home runs.