They called him “Killer” and he killed the hopes of many teams with his long high home runs. The thought of facing Harmon Killebrew in a clutch situation made pitchers squirm. He developed the strength he needed to hit his massive home runs by lifting 10 gallon milk cans as a Idaho farmhand. While still in high school Herman Welker a U.S. Senator from Idaho and a baseball fan recommended him to the Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith. Griffith sent a scout named Ossie Bluege to scout him. Watching Harmon hit a ball over a fence 435 feet away (a feat never accomplished before on that field) made Ossie’s decision easy and he signed Killebrew to a contract for the Senators. Killebrew had also excelled in football as a Quarterback and had aspirations of playing college football. All of that changed that day as Bluege saw the unmistakable potential in young Killebrew. His decision was one of the best ever in baseball. Killebrew went on to play 22 years in the big leagues. His list of accomplishments are many. He hit over 40 home runs in a season eight times. He led the league in home runs six times and in Runs Batted In three times. He won the most valuable player award in 1969 when he hit 49 home runs and drove in 140. He blasted 573 home runs in his career which at the time of his retirement was 4th all time. His home runs were majestic and he created fear for the opposition when he firmly took his stance like a giant rock at the plate. He was the first player to ever hit a ball completely out of Tiger Stadium to left field (only 3 have done it since). They painted a seat at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota that one of Killebrew’s blasts had rocketed into some 530 feet from home plate! His home run records were even more amazing considering that his home fields were among the biggest in all of baseball.
In 1984 Killebrew was elected to baseball’ hall of fame. As a kid I remember Killebrew batting and his raw power at the plate. I remember teams fearing his thunder and walking him whenever it was convenient. However, the story that he told that day put a whole different light to what I think about when his name comes up. At these events someone comes up and introduces the recipient with a nice speech. Then it is time for the recipient to give his. Harmon humbly told a tale about his parents and what he said still brings tears to my eyes. You see his brothers and him regularly played ball in the yard. After awhile his mother noticed that they were making bare spots all over the well kept green grass. With her eyes on the unpleasant sight that these spots had caused she complained to her husband one day. His statement back to her put everything in perspective. “We are not trying to grow grass”, he said, “we are trying to raise boys!”
The Bible has a lot of examples where people put the wrong thing first and weren’t focused on the ultimate goal. In Luke 11:37-41 it reads that Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house to eat. The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not wash before eating as was the Jewish tradition. Jesus took this opportunity to condemn the Pharisees for wrong thinking. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. He was telling them that the important thing was not following rules but having a clean heart. Another example of focusing on the wrong thing can be found in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus and his disciples were coming into a village and Martha opened up her house to them. Martha and Mary were sisters and were preparing the meal but when Jesus came Mary sat at his feet and listened intently to his message. Martha got upset and this is what happened. She came to him and asked, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Once again we see that Martha was concerned more about the worldly things while Mary did right in her hunger for the spiritual.
Sadly in our Christian walk the same types of things happen today. There are people who feel that it is important to build a bigger church or make sure that the young people have something to entertain them. They may be consumed by the amount of money the church receives or the types of people that attend their church. We have to ask ourselves, What is our true purpose? The right way of thinking should always be the spiritual one. We live in an age where people want to go to beautiful big churches. On the other end of the scale Christians want to build the fanciest churches. Is this the right way of thinking? Isn’t this the same thing that Jesus talked about when the Pharisee was putting an emphasis on what the cup looked like on the outside without regards to the inside? The important thing is not if the church is big or small or in between, it is it’s spiritual heart. Is it clean and doing things for the right reasons? Are we making decisions after getting direction from God and attempting to do what he wants instead of our own will?
Harmon Killebrew was not an extra large man. He was only 5’10 and weighed around 215 pounds. Yet when he came to bat he made a big difference in the game not only by his enormous home runs but also by the fear he put into the other teams head. Yet without the forethought of his loving father all of that might not have happened. I still shake my head in amazement over the wisdom of that statement. “We’re not trying to grow grass, we are trying to raise boys!” I pray that as Christians we will stop trying to grow grass and start focusing on what God can do through us!