Baseball, America's beloved pastime, has a long and proud history in Chattanooga.
Professional baseball first arrived in Chattanooga in the summer of 1885. Since then, thousands of players have taken to the diamond here, and many have gone on to play in the majors, their time as Lookouts preparing them for the toughest competition Major League Baseball has to offer. In this year's All-Star Game, four former Chattanooga Lookouts players, including Edwin Encarnacion and Johnny Cueto, took the field to represent their leagues and make their old team proud. But in all the history of local baseball in this city, one name stands above all the rest.
Harmon Killebrew, the legendary home run hitter known as The Killer, spent 22 years in the big leagues, striking fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. Best known for his time as a Minnesota Twin, few outside Tennessee remember that Harmon was once a Chattanooga Lookout. In 1957, as a youngster with a powerful swing and a lot to prove, Harmon made his mark on our community, smashing 29 home runs. He would go on to become a baseball legend and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984.
Despite his prowess at the plate, Hammerin' Harmon was as well-known for his off-the-field presence. He continues, to this day, to be cited as the gold standard for sportsmanship in professional sports. He was soft-spoken but always a constant presence around the dugout, making time to talk to kids, sign autographs and mentor younger players long after he'd hit his final home run.
Harmon passed away in 2011. He has been recognized since for his many contributions to the communities he devoted himself to and the legacy he left for the game of baseball. Recently, a new push has emerged to have him honored in a new way — by having his likeness put on a commemorative U.S. postal stamp. In recognition of this, thousands have already written in to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee in support of this idea.
As all members of Congress from Minnesota wrote in a letter last summer:
"Harmon Killebrew was renowned as the home run king, but perhaps even better known for his sportsmanship ... However, it was his community and charitable accomplishments that perhaps best reflected his character. Following his mother's words, 'we are here to help each other, son,' Mr. Killebrew dedicated himself to a wide array of charitable projects ... We are proud of such an exemplary role model for current and future generations, and see this stamp as an important way of preserving the legacy of Harmon Killebrew."
Here at the Lookouts, we couldn't agree more. Harmon Killebrew, former Chattanooga Lookout superstar, should be honored with a U.S. stamp. While an Idaho native, he became a standard bearer for Tennessee values on and off the field. We cannot think of a better way to honor his memory.
Rich Mozingo is the president of the Chattanooga Lookouts baseball team.