Killebrew in rough shape

Former MLB American League sluggers New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Minnesota Twins' Harmon...

Former MLB American League sluggers New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Minnesota Twins' Harmon Killebrew (C) laugh during the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball All-Star game in Pittsburgh, in this July 11, 1994 file photograph. (REUTERS FILES/Joe Giza)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s battle against cancer is coming to an unhappy conclusion.

In a statement issued jointly by the Minnesota Twins and the Baseball Hall of Fame on Friday, Killebrew conceded defeat.

“It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end,” wrote Killebrew. “With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors’ expectation of cure.

“I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides.

“I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends. I thank you for the outpouring of concern, prayers and encouragement that you have shown me. I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with Nita by my side.”

Killebrew’s 22-year career ended in 1975 with the Kansas City Royals but he will always be remembered as perhaps the greatest player in Minnesota Twins’ history. He moved from Washington with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and remained there until his final season.

His 573 career home runs is good for 11th on the all-time list. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1984.

HALLADAY MENTORS MARLIN RIVAL

The pitching matchup of the week occurred in Florida on Tuesday night when Josh Johnson and the Marlins nipped Roy Halladay and the Phils on the strength of an eighth-inning unearned run.

It was Halladay’s first loss to an NL East rival since last June when he lost to the Marlins. In between he owned a 13-0 record with a 1.99 ERA within the NL East.

The two pitchers may work for bitter division rivals but Halladay has been generous in his mentorship of the Marlin righthander.

Last summer, just after Halladay had thrown a perfect game against the Marlins, Florida paid a visit to Philadelphia and Johnson, bold as brass, asked if he could watch Halladay throw a bullpen. A few weeks after that, at the All-Star game, Johnson stuck to Halladay like glue for two days.

“I was like a little brother to him,” Johnson told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. “I was following him around and trying to pick his brain about what he does after starts, in between starts, everything.”

Halladay answered every question.

“Says a lot about his character,” Johnson said, “and the guy he is.

THUMBS UP FOR BASEBALL

With the acrimonious atmosphere of the labour dispute between the NFL and its players as a background, negotiations for a new baseball contract appear to be rolling smoothly along.

Rob Manfred, of the commissioner’s office, and MLBPA boss Michael Weiner have been meeting regularly since early in spring training and are believed to be making significant progress.

Weiner thinks the hard-edged history between the union and management, a history in which the union has mopped the floor with the owners, has created an atmosphere of respect that has allowed baseball a 16-year window without a work stoppage.

“Our history has helped us,” he said. “We’ve had our fights, and I think the owners respect the players much more now than in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Weiner doesn’t expect the owners to try to get a salary cap, which was the main sticking point during the 1994 labour dispute. Perhaps the most contentious issue is management’s push to get a slotting system for money paid to draft picks.

The current contract runs through December of 2011.

PUJOLS HUGS CUBS GM

Before Tuesday’s game, Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Cards’ free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols wrapped their arms around each other during a batting practice embrace of such passion somebody suggested they get a room.

In Chicago, they’re calling it The Man-Hug Heard Down I-55. Geographical note: I-55 is the highway that links Chicago and St. Louis or more importantly, Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium.

Could it eventually link Pujols and the Cubs?

“We shook hands, we’re good friends — that’s what we’ve done forever,” Hendry said. “I didn’t even walk away from it thinking there was a hug.”

Pujols is seeking a contract larger than any in baseball history. The Cubs have something like $36 million in expiring contracts. Hence the linkage. But in this case it looks as if 2 plus 2 equals 5.

The Cubs’ new owner, Tom Ricketts favours a path to victory through homegrown talent. He isn’t afraid of paying big money but only as long as he’s getting value. He doesn’t want to be paying Albert Pujols money to the ghost of Albert Pujols at age 40.

“The length of the deal is often a bigger problem than the dollars,” Ricketts said during spring training.


Videos

Photos