How many more home runs might Harmon Killebrew have hit playing in Fenway Park?
Years ago Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, who was general manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time, took a trip West to scout a young Pacific Coast League shortstop, who reportedly could put handcuffs on lightning.
Unimpressed by the boy's range, Collins's trained eye began to stray, eventually resulting in the Red Sox buying the contracts of both outfielder Ted Williams and second baseman Bobby Doerr.
What triggered this reminder was the recent election of slugger Harmon Killebrew (Washington, Minnesota, and Kansas City) to baseball's Hall of Fame.
Back in 1954, Boston had a chance to sign Killebrew and blew it. While Harmon was still in high school, a golf course friendship had grown between himself and Red Sox scout Earl Johnson. They had agreed that if Killebrew ever received an offer from another major league team, he would contact Johnson so the Red Sox would have a chance to match it.
''When the Washington Senators offered me a three-year contract for $30,000, I called Earl on the phone and he said he'd take it from there,'' Harmon explained. ''I'm sure he tried his best, but the Red Sox weren't buying. The major league minimum was $6,000 a year then, so that extra $12,000 was sort of like a bonus, which most clubs tried hard not to pay.''
Although Killebrew, a right-handed pull hitter, had a career total of 573 home runs, second only to Babe Ruth in the American League, there is no telling what he might have done in Boston's Fenway Park. As almost everyone who has a television set knows, the left field wall there is only 315 feet from home plate.
''I still remember the first time I went to Boston with the Senators and walked out onto the field,'' Killebrew told reporters after being elected to the Hall of Fame. ''Until then, I figured all big league parks were built along the lines of Griffith Stadium, where you had to hit the ball a country mile to reach the left field stands.
''I took one look at that Green Wall and right away it occurred to me that maybe I'd signed with the wrong club,'' he said. ''I mean that left field wall was so close it looked as though you could reach out and touch it.''