Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirbeeeeee Puckett

Hopefully Mariner Magic faithful Chris will stop by the blog today. Kirby Puckett was his favorite player growing up (he wrote a great argument in 1988 as to why he deserved the MVP over Jose Canseco). Regardless, Chris (and anyone else) this is your forum to talk about Kirby.

5 comments:

  1. first off - 5:15 am posting? mike l. is one devoted blogger.

    it was a sad day to see kirby go. but, with the downward spiral that his life had become in the last few years since he left baseball, i have a feeling he is happier today than he was yesterday. kirby and i had grown apart after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman in the bathroom of a bar, after his wife accused him of abuse, after he became a sad man. but, today i am sad, because i remember the kirby that was always happy when he was playing baseball - unlike griffey, my other all-time favorite - and junior, i still love you - he never turned sour during his playing days. i remember that when i decided, for whatever reason, to collect the twins' box score every morning during the 1989 season and paste them neatly into a scrapbook, kirby went out and won a batting title for me. i remember the slow, punctuated, emphatic claps of his hands as he rounded the bases after sending the '91 world series into game 7. i remember that high leg kick, and the cartoon-like spinning of his legs when he really got going, and every time he climbed a wall that nobody 5'7" (really, kirby?) had any business leaping over. i remember that when i was given a box on the wall of my junior high to paint for art class in 9th grade, there was no doubt in my mind that i would paint a tribute to kirby puckett.

    the year that kirby was elected to the baseball hall of fame, i happened to be on a road trip that took me through central new york, and had to stop in cooperstown. (aside - for those who have never been, don't die without visiting.) there was more than one person that year who questioned whether kirby deserved to be a first ballot hall of famer. barely 200 hrs. only 2,300 hits for a guy who was known for hitting for high average. was his career really any more impressive than don mattingly or jim rice, who still haven't made the hall, never mind on the first ballot?

    how about this - in the strike shortened 1994 season, his second to last, kirby had 112 rbi in 108 games (that's a pace for 168 in 162 games if i remember algebra correctly). in his last season, before being hit by the pitch that would, eventually, end his career, kirby hit .314 with 23 hrs and 99 rbi in just 137 games. when he was forced out of baseball he was still one of the best in the game. and he was no tony conigliaro - promising talent cut-off before he could realize his potential, he had already been to 10 all-star games. so, sorry jim rice and don mattingly - while i believe that rice probably does belong, and a good case can be made for donnie baseball as well - i knew kirby puckett, kirby puckett was my favorite baseball player, and you were no kirby puckett. he belongs among the greats. that 1988 season that mike referenced? the one that was the subject of the best essay that i wrote in 8th grade? (and i wrote some damn good essays in 8th grade.) .356. 121 rbi. 24 hrs (when that still meant you had good power). 234 hits. even with canseco's juice-induced 40-40, kirby, you were robbed.

    i don't think kirby needed us to add his enthusiasm for the game to pad his statistics. he was an all-time great player. not a guy who smiled alot and also played some pretty good baseball along they way. all he needed was two pitchers, one great and one good (jack morris - his '91 guy - deserves to be in the hall as well, and while frankie viola - his '87 guy - probably won't ever be there, he was damn good - then there was bert blyleven in '87, and scott erickson in '91), plus a couple of above average corner infielders to bring two world series titles to minnesota. (and shame on you bud selig, for even suggesting that the twins be contracted, when your pathetic brewers were sitting right there next to them.) hall of fame players single handedly win important world series games, and kirby did just that in game 6 of the '91 series. the greats take teams that have no business showing up after the regular season is over and win championships anyway. the '87 twins only started one other player who hit over .265, their starting catcher hit .191, and their starting second baseman hit .238. the '91 team did have five starters who hit better than .280, but only two who hit more than 20 hrs and only three with more than 80 rbi - none with 100 rbi. kirby won world titles with both of those teams, while arod couldn't even get a team that started former all-stars at every position into the series last year. kirby was one of the greats.

    the headlines will tell us that kirby died of a stroke. but anyone who loved kirby could see that he had been dying slowly since glaucoma took away his greatest gift - the ability to see a tiny sphere travelling 90 mph from 60 feet away and hit it with a stick - hit it anywhere he wanted it to go. i hope it is a long time before i get to see kirby puckett playing baseball again, but, kirby, i hope you are hitting third and playing centerfield and loving it when i get there.

    thanks, mikey.

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  2. Very very good. I can't really follow that. I do remember that 1989 scrapbook.

    5:15 AM = 8:15 EST

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  3. Wow Chris that’s a hell of a post but a good one none the less. I for one remember Kirby for his moments on the field and really tend to fade out all the controversy surrounding him off the field. He was amazing to watch. Ill forever remember him leaping up the left field wall to steal Ron Gant’s HR in the 91 series. I remember his HR to send the twins on in what would eventually be a WS championship. And I remember him for be a round smiling guy who seemed to be playing the game for fun and not as a business. He seemed to truly enjoy the game and that mentality is all to forgotten lost or forgotten in much of today's professional sporting arena's.

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  4. Neddy Ballgame2:40 PM

    ..Chris,you're the best ..and I love your Tie-ins to the Bosox--Tony C. and Jim Rice-
    A few so-called realist commentators are bringing up Kirby's post-baseball failings( which can't be denied) but your column (send it to ESPN.com and /or ESPN themagazine and to Carl Pohlad as well) is right on target..it IS a sad day when someone like Kirbeeeeeeeee Pucket dies ...keep up the great work,Chris

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  5. maaah3:21 PM

    It is indeed a sad day to see a man die so young. Yet I think Chris is right that the years he played baseball were the years that Kirby truly was alive. Let's remember him for those good years and put away...maybe not forget...the memories of him that disappointed us. My understanding is that the years before he played baseball were almost as non-life-giving as the years after. So thank goodness for the good years. And I too look forward to the days of hanging out in the great final destination baseball stadium watching Kirby again. But I sure would like to see my grandkids playing baseball (or swimming!) first! No hurry boys...I can wait.

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