"When I saw that today I was very sad," Manuel said prior to Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "At the same time, when I started thinking about the laughter and some of the things he did, the fact that I've known him a long time and all that, I'd say the best thing about how I got to know him was in my first Spring Training, my first big league camp, I was lockered between him and Bob Allison. They were the big Twins star players. Even to this day, I can't believe that. I got to know them that way. Both of them were very good friends of mine."
Manuel was a 25-year-old rookie with the Twins in 1969 when Killebrew was in his 16th season in the big leagues, a 33-year-old who would end up winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award after putting up career highs of 49 home runs and 140 RBIs.
Manuel, who batted .207 in 83 games that season, watched and learned and hung out with veterans like Killebrew and Allison.
"I can tell you stories," Manuel said.
The 67-year-old manager told a couple on Tuesday, about moments on and off the field, during his pregame chat with reporters.
"I used to pull the boat for him and Allison," Manuel said. "They were scared to wade in the lake in Kissimmee. There were some alligators in there, otters and things like that in there that would bump up against your leg. They would get scared. So I would take the fish chain and hook it to the boat and I'd wade and pull the boat."
That was just part of being a rookie, Manuel said.
And he still remembers seeing Killebrew blast home run after home run. Killebrew, who finished with 573 home runs, hit 90 in the first two years he and Manuel played together.
"I used to take it for granted," Manuel said. "He'd hit 40 [home runs]. I think 49 was the most I'd ever seen him hit. But I took it for granted because I expected him to hit them. He was that good."
Manuel and Killebrew maintained a friendship long after their playing days were over, and Killebrew would visit Manuel whenever the manager would come to Minnesota, including the three seasons (2000-02) when he managed the Cleveland Indians.
"He was a great person," Manuel said. "Tremendous. He'd do anything for you. I never ever heard him say anything bad about anybody. Never. In all the years I'd been around him."