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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    Sunday, March 26, 2006 - Volume 18, Issue 19

    [size=18px]Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett [/size]

    How Puckett was an inspiration to many people both on and off the playing field.

    Zach Koenig
    Sports Editor

    (This article is dedicated to the memory of Minnesota baseball icon Kirby Puckett, 1961-2006.)

    Since the UR's last issue the week before spring break, many significant events have transpired in the sporting world. The Minnesota Vikings traded Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins, Team USA did not advance past the second round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, and my March Madness bracket has already been messed up (darn Kansas!). Yet, none of those events seemed quite as crucial (at least to a Minnesota sports fan) in the wake of Kirby Puckett's tragic passing.

    I did not know Kirby Puckett any more than anyone else in this world, yet was still deeply touched by his sudden death on March 6. That was the beauty of the man they called "Puck." Whether you were his closest friend, an autograph hound, or a small child who couldn't tell the difference between a base hit and an out, he made an impression on you. There really were two Kirby Puckett's: Kirby the ballplayer and Kirby the man. Both left an indelible mark on their respective domains.

    I was told I would never make it because I'm too short. Well, I'm still too short, but I've got 10 All-Star games [and] two World Series championships. It doesn't matter what your height is, it's what's in your heart (Kirby Puckett)... As most know by now, Kirby Puckett grew up on the roughest streets of Chicago, the Robert Taylor housing projects, appropriately dubbed "where hope goes to die." Yet Puck was raised in a strong home, kept out of trouble, and possessed enough athletic talent to get noticed by major league baseball scouts and be drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1982.

    I want you to remember the guiding principles of my life: You can be what you want to be. If you believe in yourself, and you work hard...anything is possible (Kirby Puckett)... From the first time Kirby donned a major league uniform in 1984, one could see he was going to be special. In his first major league game he went 4-5. That season he batted an impressive .296 and led the league in outfield assists. Two years later, Puckett's work with Twins hitting coach Tony Oliva produced a .328 batting average, 31 home runs, and even 20 stolen bases. That season Kirby also won his first of six Gold Glove awards.

    Baseball doesn't owe me a thing. I owe my whole life to baseball (Kirby Puckett)... In 1987, Kirby led the Twins to a World Series title, batting .357 in seven games against the St. Louis Cardinals. The next year, Puckett's .356 average was the highest by a right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio in 1941. When no one thought he could top his '87 or '88 seasons, Kirby won the AL batting championship in 1989 (.339), also getting his 1,000th hit (the only player in the 20th century to do so in his first five seasons) that same year.

    If we had to lose and if one person basically was the reason... you didn't mind it being Kirby Puckett. When he made the catch and when he hit the home run you could tell the whole thing had turned (Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz)... Heading into 1991, the Twins were coming off a last place finish in the AL West. But, with Kirby's team-leading .319 average and spectacular defense, they toppled the mighty Oakland A's to win the division. In the ALCS, the Twins flattened the Toronto Blue Jays in five games. The series MVP? Who else but Kirby Puckett, with a .429 average, two home runs, and six RBI. In the World Series, the Twins were pitted against the Atlanta Braves. Heading into Game Six at the Metrodome, the Twins were down three games to two. As Puck observed the somber mood of the clubhouse before the game, he made the now-infamous statement: "Jump on my back, boys. I'm going to carry you tonight!" In the first inning, Puckett tripled to score Chuck Knoblauch for an early lead. In the third, his gigantic leap saved at least one run by plucking Ron Gant's monstrous drive off the Plexiglass in left-center field. With the game in extra innings, Puckett led off the bottom of the 11th inning against Charlie Leibrandt. On a 2-1 count, Kirby deposited Leibrandt's changeup into the left field seats, winning the game, eventually leading to a World Series victory the next night, making heroes of Jack Morris and Gene Larkin.

    Kirby Puckett's going to be all right. Don't worry about me. I'll show up, and I'll have a smile on my face. The only thing I won't have is this uniform on. But you guys can have the memories of what I did when I did have it on (Kirby Puckett)... As the Twins trickled down the standings after '91, Puckett's production did no such thing. In 1994 he won his first RBI championship, driving in 112 runs in a strike-shortened 108 game season. Puck was having another mammoth season in '95 when it was cut short after he was hit in the face by Cleveland pitcher Dennis Martinez. Kirby was extremely excited about hitting behind Chuck Knoblauch and Paul Molitor in 1996, but one morning during spring training he woke up with a black dot in front of his right eye. A few months later he was diagnosed with glaucoma and announced his retirement.

    Don't take anything for granted, because tomorrow is not promised to any of us (Kirby Puckett)... It is obvious that through all of Kirby's achievements, as well as accolades such as his ten straight All-Star appearances, having his number retired by the Twins, and being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, he made his mark on the playing field. Yet, that was not what made Puck so beloved. What really endured Puckett to fans was his excitement, energy, and love for baseball. How could you watch him and not be inspired? Throughout the week following his death, many players, coaches, fans, and ordinary citizens shared their recollections of Kirby Puckett and how he touched their lives. Each person had a different, exciting story to tell. For what it's worth, Kirby Puckett has a place in my heart as well:

    My first memory of attending a major league baseball game? Kirby Puckett being presented his Silver Bat in 1990 for winning the batting championship the previous season...While playing whiffle ball in my back yard, it was Kirby Puckett I wanted to hit like...In 1995, attending a game in the right-field overhanging seats, I was literally right above Kirby (switched to RF that season as the Twins wanted to give Rich Becker some CF experience). As much as I should have been enjoying the game (though in '95 the Twins were most likely losing), much of my time was spent peering over the railing down at Kirby...In 1996, with the threat of a Kirby Puckett-less season looming over the Twins, I diligently followed the daily news of his condition through the newspapers, radio, and television, piquing my interest in the field of journalism and sports writing...My only visit (so far!) to the Baseball Hall of Fame came the year of Kirby Puckett's induction.

    And we'll see you tomorrow night! (CBS Broadcaster Jack Buck)... As Kirby Puckett's Game Six home run headed towards the left field seats, Jack Buck issued his famous proclamation for the television viewers, and Kirby could be seen rounding the bases, fists pumping with every step. In the radio booth, John Gordon was screaming "Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett" at the top of his lungs. John, I don't think you have to worry too much. Kirby touched 'em all.

    Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    V4L's Avatar
    V4L is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    I'd love to read this but I have to split, i'll read it later


  3. #3
    marcosMN is offline Star Spokesman
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    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    I can't believe he's been gone for a year...

    We miss ya, Kirby...

  4. #4
    Marrdro's Avatar
    Marrdro is offline Beware My Spreadsheet, Bitches!
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    Dec 1969

    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    Here Here.

    Not quite the first, but pretty close to it, word my son Shaun learned (He was born in 91) was Kirby.

    He still has his poster on the wall.

    All others have been replaced by chicks.
    Many many thanks to my talented friend Jos for the new Sig.

  5. #5
    triedandtruevikesfan is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    RIP Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiirby PUCKET!!
    I loved him!!

  6. #6
    BadlandsVikings's Avatar
    BadlandsVikings is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    I'm not a cryer, but I bawled like a little girl when I heard the news

  7. #7
    PurplePackerEater is offline Ring of Fame
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    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    "BadlandsViking" wrote:
    I'm not a cryer, but I bawled like a little girl when I heard the news

    Sounds like a cryer to me.

    I'm about to say what I said on the 1st anniversary of Kirby Puckets death.

    "I can't believe Kirby is dead."


  8. #8
    Vikes_King's Avatar
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    Dec 1969

    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    yea its really a shame he was so young still

    He'll always live on as part of Minnesotan History

    "We’ll win our own Super Bowl, with our own players. Real Vikings. Something Brett Favre can never be."

    - Dan Calabrese

  9. #9
    VKG4LFE's Avatar
    VKG4LFE is offline Jersey Retired Tetris Champion, Monkey GO Happy 4 Champion
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    Dec 1969
    Hartford, WI

    Re: Remembering Minnesota sports legend Kirby Puckett

    There was nobody better than the Puckster to put on a Twins uniform, at least in my days!

    I get the most pissed off looks from people with my VKG 4 LFE Wisconsin license plate, and I LOVE IT!!

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