Goodbye, Kirby

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 6, 2006 - 10:57 PM

On the day Kirby Puckett retired from baseball, he tried reassuring everyone that the sadness of losing sight in his right eye wouldn't diminish the spirit fans had seen him show for 12 seasons in a Twins uniform.

On the day Kirby Puckett retired from baseball, he tried reassuring everyone that the sadness of losing sight in his right eye wouldn't diminish the spirit fans had seen him show for 12 seasons in a Twins uniform.

"Kirby Puckett's going to be all right," he said in 1996. "Don't worry about me. I'll show up, and I'll have a smile on my face. The only thing I won't have is this uniform on. But you guys can have the memories of what I did when I did have it on."

On Monday, the sports world held those memories close as Puckett died in a Phoenix hospital, one day after suffering a massive stroke. He was 45.

"It's gut-wrenching," Twins President Dave St. Peter said. "We lost a dear friend. Really, somebody who in many ways was the foundation of this franchise for a long time."

Puckett rose from a Chicago housing project and became a Minnesota sports icon, bursting onto the scene in 1984 with an energetic style and an effervescent smile, each all his own.

He led the Twins to the World Series in 1987 and 1991, leaping into walls as their center fielder and swinging with a might that belied his stocky, 5-8 frame.

"This is a sad day for the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and baseball fans everywhere," Twins owner Carl Pohlad said in a statement. "Eloise and I loved Kirby deeply. Kirby's impact on the Twins organization, the state of Minnesota and Upper Midwest is significant and goes well beyond his role in helping the Twins win two world championships."

Puckett was given last rites and died Monday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Kimberly Lodge told the Associated Press. He wanted his organs to be donated. In a statement, family and friends thanked fans for their prayers.

Puckett often said he played every game as if it were his last, and sure enough, on March 28, 1996, he awoke with blurred vision in his right eye.

He never played again. He was found to have glaucoma and retired on July 12, 1996.

For the next five years, Puckett remained a smiling fixture on the Minnesota scene, working as an executive vice president for the Twins in an ambassadorial role.

In 2001, he became a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame with 2,304 career hits, 10 All-Star selections and six Gold Glove Awards.

Not all was as well in Puckett's personal life. His seemingly impeccable image began to tarnish in 2002, as details emerged from divorce proceedings with his wife, Tonya Puckett, who alleged that he had abused her and threatened to kill her.

Puckett said it wasn't true, but allegations from other women soon followed. He relinquished most ties to the Twins, moved his permanent residence to Arizona and disappeared from the public view.

Meteoric rise

Puckett grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes, a housing project on Chicago's South Side. He received no scholarship offers, so he went to work after high school on an assembly line for Ford Motor Co.

"I never forgot where I came from," Puckett said when he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

The Twins drafted him in 1982, and he reached the big leagues on May 8, 1984. He celebrated his arrival by getting four hits against the California Angels.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close