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05/17/11 12:58 PM ET

Killebrew a legend, but not the logo

It's often been included in the lore of Harmon Killebrew, on top of his 22 seasons and 573 home runs and his place in Cooperstown. The silhouette in the ubiquitous official logo of Major League Baseball bears a resemblance to the Hall of Fame slugger, who passed away at 74 on Tuesday.

Killebrew's legend will live on in myriad ways, but the design wasn't in his likeness, according to a 2009 MLB.com interview with Jerry Dior, the logo's creator.

"People have said my design was based on Harmon Killebrew, but it wasn't," said Dior, whose logo first appeared on uniforms in the 1969 season. "Mine wasn't based on anyone -- just a nondescript figure with a bat.

"I didn't model it after any one player," Dior said. "It was intentionally ambiguous in every way, including righty vs. lefty. I was only told to create a nondescript figure, and that's what I did."

Killebrew himself believed otherwise, telling ESPN's Paul Lukas that he thought he could be the basis for the logo in a 2008 interview.

"I was in the commissioner's office one day in the late 1960s," Killebrew said. "I can't remember the specifics, but I think it had something to do with a litho they were doing for the National Kidney Foundation. Anyway, I walked through the back part of the office, and there was a man sitting at a table. He had a photograph of me in a hitting position, and he had one of those grease pencils that you see at a newspaper, and he was marking that thing up. I said, 'What are you doing with that?' and he said they were going to make a new Major League Baseball logo. I never thought any more about it. And then the logo came out and it did look like me. The only change was the angle of the bat -- they changed that to kind of make it fit more into the design."

Dior told Lukas he was never in the Commissioner's office. The marketing firm Dior worked at was commissioned by MLB in 1968 to create a logo for use in the following season's centennial celebration. Along with another designer, Dior was handed the assignment and he came up with the image we still see today.

"I went with the silhouette because it was simple and easy to reproduce," said Dior. "I thought it had a good identity -- but I never imagined it would become what it has."

According to Lukas, Killebrew did not pursue the origins of the logo further that day in the Commissioner's office until he asked former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn about it shortly before Kuhn's death in 2007. Kuhn, not yet commissioner in 1968 but part of the selection committee that chose the logo, told him he could not recall.

There is a logo that Lukas confirmed Killebrew has been a part of since 1982, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's.

"That was perfect for us, because Harmon was very involved in the Alumni Association at the time," said MLBPAA board chairman Jim Hannan, who helped found the group in '82. "So I said to Harmon, 'By the way, we've got our logo, and it's you.' He said that was great, and he mentioned that he was also the source of the Major League Baseball logo."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.