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Mon, 03.14.1960

The true energy of Baseball, Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

*Kirby Puckett was born on this date in 1960. He was a Black Baseball player.

From Chicago, Illinois as a player he showed no signs of being a great one until after he had left his team at Bradley University in 1980. He decided to give baseball a second chance a year later, after catching the eye of scouts while playing recreational ball in his home town.  He moved on to Triton College (in Illinois) and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1982.

Five years later, Puckett led them to their World Series title after batting.332 with 28 home runs and 99 RBI in the regular season. His performance was even more impressive in the seven-game Series upset over the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .357.  In 1991, the Twins with Puckett leading the way by batting.319, eighth in the league pushed to win it all again.

Minnesota surged past Oakland in midseason and captured the division title, then upset the favored Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the American League Championship Series. Puckett batted .429 with two home runs and six RBI in the playoffs to win MVP honors.  The 1991 World Series that followed is considered by many to be the most exciting ever.

In 1994, he won his first league RBI title by driving in 112 runs in just 108 games, and he was having another brilliant season in 1995 before having his jaw broken by a Dennis Martínez fastball in late September. He recovered fully and returned to the Twins for spring training in 1996. On March 28, he woke up unable to see out of his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma, and several surgeries in the months to come were unable to save his vision in the eye.  On July 12, 1996 Puckett announced his retirement from baseball at age 36.

His lifetime batting average of.318 was the highest of any right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio. The Twins retired his number 34 the following year, and in 1999, he ranked Number 86 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2001 he became the third youngest individual ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, going in at age 41 in his first year of eligibility. Puckett appeared in 10 straight All-Star Games and was named the MVP of the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore.

He was admired throughout his career and his baseball competency, outgoing personality, charity work, community involvement, healthy image, good rapport with the media, and nice-guy attitude earned him the respect and admiration of fans across the country. Puckett became the subject of controversy in the years before his death. Puckett was arrested and charged with groping a woman in a bar restroom on September 5, 2002. He was acquitted.

In the March 17, 2003 edition of Sports Illustrated, columnist Frank Deford penned a piece entitled "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett" that documented Puckett's many indiscretions and contrasted his private image with the much-revered public image he maintained prior to his arrest. Puckett's mistress of many years commented that when Puckett couldn't play baseball anymore, "he started to become full of himself and very abusive." He was alleged to have begun to perform lewd acts in public.

On March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona and underwent emergency surgery. He died of complications from the stroke the next day, just 8 days away from his 46th birthday Puckett was the second-youngest person (behind Lou Gehrig) to die already a member of the Hall of Fame. He played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins from 1984 to 1995.  Puckett is survived by a son, Kirby Jr., and a daughter, Catherine.

Reference:
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
25 Main Street,
Cooperstown, New York, 13326
1-888-HALL-OF-FAME

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