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Monday, March 06, 2006

Kirby Puckett Rest in Peace

I just heard on the radio that Kirby Puckett has passed away. He was 44 years old, way too young to go. He was a joy to watch play baseball. I send my condolences to the Puckett family and Twins fans.

Baseball Musings has a round up of links to Puckett memorials.

From a Twins fan (T. Scott Brandon) come these trivia tidbits about Kirby:

It is with a very heavy heart that I send out this memorial...

Which Hall of Famer hit a game-winning, 11th-inning home run off of
Charlie Liebrandt in game 6 of the 1991 World Series?

Hint:
He was the first player to be awarded a contract for $3,000,000 per
season.

Hint:
He was the last player to win three consecutive hits titles, and one of
only three AL players ever to have done it.

Hint:
He was the MVP of the 1993 All-Star Game.

Hint:
He scored a run on Dave Winfield's 3,000th career hit.

Hint:
He hit for the cycle during the game in which Bert Blyleven recorded his
3,000th career strikeout.

Hint:
Blyleven said of him, "I could see how much he loved playing the game of
baseball. His enthusiasm rubbed off on all his teammates including me.
It was fun being his teammate."

Hint:
He got his chance as a Major Leaguer when Jim Eisenreich was unable to
continue playing due to the effects of Tourette's Syndrome.

Hint:
He collected more hits in his first 10 years in the Major Leagues than
any other 20th Century player (2,040).

Hint:
He set the AL record for most hits in back-to-back 9-inning games, with
10 (8/29-30/1987).

Hint:
He was the only post-expansion player in the 20th Century to collect six
hits in a game more than once (8/30/1987 & 5/23/1991).

Hint:
Randy Bush potty trained his son by saying, "This is the way [he] does
it."

Hint:
He hit home runs on the first pitch of back-to-back games against the
Tigers in 1986 (5/2-3/1986).

Hint:
He was the last player to hit for the cycle for the Twins.

Hint:
He was the first player to hit 30 home runs in a season after having
previously gone an entire season (minimum 500 AB) without hitting a home
run.

Hint:
He was engaged to be married later this year.

Hint:
The last pitch he saw in a regular-season game shattered his cheekbone,
yet he was adamant that the pitch, thrown by his friend Dennis Martinez,
was not at fault in his retirement.

Hint:
As Spring Training, 1996 drew to a close he carried a .360 batting
average and seemed ready for the season to begin.

Hint:
The next morning he woke up with blurry vision and was diagnosed with
Glaucoma, which cost him the sight in his right eye.

Hint:
At his retirement press conference he observed, "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, two World Series championships, and I'm a very happy and contented guy. It doesn't matter what your height is, it's what's in your heart."

Hint:
When he retired, he had attained the highest career batting average
(.318) for a right-handed batter since Joe DiMaggio.

Hint:
I was fortunate enough to be on the field during his retirement ceremony, at which the Twins presented him with (among other things) a complete collection of his baseball cards, which I had assembled as a gift from his fans.

Hint:
In his Hall of Fame induction speech he observed, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: it may be cloudy in my right eye, but the sun is shining very brightly in my left eye."

Hint:
Also in his induction speech he advised, "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, and I'm telling you, anything is possible."

Hint:
His Hall of Fame plaque reads, in part, "A six-time Gold Glove winner who patrolled center field with elegance and style, routinely scaling outfield walls to take away home runs. "

Hint:
He regularly hosted an 8-ball (pool) challenge during the off-season to
benefit Minneapolis-area charities.

Hint:
Only Lou Gehrig, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente were elected to the Hall of Fame at a younger age.

Hint:
He is generally regarded as the most popular sports figure ever in Minnesota.

Hint:
He was most often seen on the field with a big smile on his face, and was recognized as one of the most joyful players in the game.


Footnote:
The television reports of Puckett's passing list his age as 45. Baseball-Reference.com has his birthdate as 14 March 1961 which would make him 44.

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