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Continued: After the game: The Kirby Puckett we never knew

Sherm, he'd say. I haven't even stepped up to the plate yet. You just wait.

Sometimes, he wanted to know what Leske was using for bait.

"I'd tell him, 'Puck, I showed you everything you know, but I haven't shown you everything I know,' " Leske said. "Oh, that just got him wild."

Once, under cover of night, the two men tied several small pine trees together and anchored them a few hundred feet off shore in hopes of creating a feeding spot for crappies. It worked great. Only trouble was, it was against the law.

Puckett never let Leske forget it. "He brought that up all the time," Leske said. "He'd say, 'I don't know how the mayor of Dresser can be so illegal.' "

But Leske got in a few laughs, too.

Like the night Puckett and his family were roasting marshmallows over a fire pit near the cabin. Puckett heard rustling in the woods and said, What's that?

Probably a bear, Leske said, straight-faced.

"Next thing I know, I look up and Kirby's gone," Leske said. "I mean, he was out of there."

Same thing happened the day Leske took Puckett ice fishing for the first time. No sooner had the two men hauled their gear onto the lake than the ice cracked.

What's that, Sherm? Leske says Puckett asked.

Just the ice expanding, Leske told him.

That's all Puckett needed to hear.

"I had to carry all the gear back," Leske said. "He just left. He said, 'I'm not going out on the ice. You're trying to kill me, that's what you are trying to do!'

"That was the end of his ice fishing right there."

• • •

Puckett got his 1,000th hit on Sept. 15, 1988, making him only the fourth player to reach that milestone in his first five seasons. He ended the season with a .356 average, second best in the major leagues. "I don't set goals," Puckett said. "I'd rather just say nothing, go out every day and let the chips fall where they may."

• • •

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