Monday, March 06, 2006

So long, Puck

I was sorry to hear just now that Kirby Puckett passed away.

The 45-year-old Hall of Fame outfielder for the Minnesota Twins suffered a massive stroke yesterday. When I heard this morning that he was undergoing brain surgery, I knew the prognosis must not be positive.

In the early 1980s, the city where I live hosted a minor league baseball team, an independent club in the Class A California League called the Redwood Pioneers. One of the Pioneers' frequent opponents was a team from Visalia, affiliated with the Twins' organization. Visalia featured such future stars as Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti, who later formed the core supporting cast around Puckett when he led the Twins to world championships in 1987 and 1991.

As for Puckett himself, he was one of the least likely superstars baseball ever saw: a short, stocky fire hydrant of a man who more resembled a football tailback than a major league center fielder. In 12 seasons with Minnesota, Puckett amassed 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, a .318 batting average, and a .477 slugging percentage. He led the American League in hits four times, in total bases twice, and in hitting and RBI once each, before glaucoma blinded his right eye and drove him prematurely from the game he loved so enthusiastically.

Puckett's personal life took something of a tailspin after his retirement, but he still sailed into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and was inducted in 2001. He becomes the second-youngest former player to die as a elected member of the Hall (Lou Gehrig was 37).

He leaves behind a daughter, a son, and a legion of adoring fans and respectful former teammates and opponents.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

What the hell is up with semi famous people dying lately anyway?!

6:39 PM  

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