Remember that time the greatest Minnesota Twin wise-assed for 44 minutes with the greatest late-night TV host?
That's exactly what happened 31 years ago when Dave Letterman brought "Harmon Killebrew Night" to The Late Show. The full episode, posted below, recently emerged on YouTube, and it's required viewing for any Twins fan.
The story behind it goes a little something like this: In late 1985, Letterman threw The Late Show's "First Annual Holiday Film Festival," featuring shorts from Bette Midler, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, and Harry Shearer. After much coaxing, Killebrew agreed to participate, but the show ran long and The Killer never made it out of the green room.
"Dave was mortified that he had done this to Harmon," said Gregg Scherer, a Minnesota sports fan who heard the backstory first-hand from Killebrew.
"He called and promised the one-man show. That made Harmon even more reluctant," Scherer shared with the Strib's Patrick Reusse in 2015. "He said, ‘How can you do a whole show about me?'"
Letterman, who grew up in Indiana worshiping Killebrew, absolutely could, though it'd take even more persuading. The promise of country legend Charley Pride, Killer's favorite singer, reportedly sealed the deal.
In early 1986, "Harmon Killebrew Night" became a reality.
"Hi there. Tonight we're going to devote our entire program to one of the greatest baseball players of all time -- Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew," Letterman begins.
"Thanks Dave," Killebrew smiles.
"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," Letterman offers, to which the Twins slugger quips: "Dave, I've also got a car dealership."
From there, we get another Twins great, Bob Allison, along with famed painter Leroy Neiman, who live-paints the episode (?!), and, inexplicably, piano icon Liberace. A weather snafu keeps Pride from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, but he calls in to sing "Mountain of Love" -- over the damn phone from his bathroom! -- with band leader Paul Shaffer & Co. providing live accompaniment. And, of course, Killebrew finally gets to debut his short film, a quirky, occasionally trippy tour of his hometown of Payette, Idaho. It ain't Pukahontas, but it's damn well worth your time.
Speaking of Shaffer, let's get a look at the pride of Thunder Bay, Canada:
Earnest and charming throughout, Harmon plays a terrific straight man to the smirkingly ironic comedy genius of Letterman. The episode culminates with Killebrew autographing his own sport coat, which Letterman then suspends from the 30 Rock rafters "from now until the end of time." Or, as it turned out, until 1993, when Letterman left NBC to launch The Late Show on CBS.
Killebrew re-watched the episode the night before he died in 2011.
"We were all there, all his kids, and we had a really good time," son Ken Killebrew told the Pioneer Press. "We laughed; all five of us kids sat around and watched it. Dad got a good kick out of it."
Enjoy "Harmon Killebrew Night" in its entirety.
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