Tuesday, March 07, 2006

We "can only wish he had stayed around longer."

I am not much of a baseball fan anymore. I grew up listening to the Twins on the radio with my dad. I listened to both World Championships in 87 and 91, but the strike in the 90s turned me off and I really haven't been back.

But when Kirby Puckett (Rest in Peace) retired in 96, it just struck me as odd. A true team player and hero on the field, I couldn't grasp why he had to retire early and goons like Albert Belle kept on succeeding. Despite some off-field problems, he was a hero on the field. (it is well we all recognize the difference and our own struggle with the fall of Adam.) He could have left Minnesota like so many rising stars did. But he took less to stay and that cemented him as a good guy in my book.

"I wore one uniform in my career, and I'm proud to say that," Puckett once said. "As a kid growing up in Chicago, people thought I'd never do anything. I've always tried to play the game the right way. I thought I did pretty good with the talent that I have."
His heroics in the world series didn't hurt either.
Puckett's signature performance came in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Atlanta. After telling anyone who would listen before the game that he would lead the Twins to victory that night at the Metrodome, he made a leaping catch against the fence and then hit a game-ending homer in the 11th inning to force a seventh game.
John Smoltz of the Braves lost the game seven 1-0 the next night. And he pretty much sums up how I feel about Puckett.
"If we had to lose and if one person basically was the reason -- you never want to lose -- but 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," Smoltz said.

"His name just seemed to be synonymous with being a superstar," the Braves pitcher added. "It's not supposed to happen like this."

Goodbye Puck, you will be missed.

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