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Continued: A Minnesota hero's hard fall from grace

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 31, 2006 - 12:32 PM

Friends say it was the last time he set foot inside the Metrodome.

Later that summer, the Twins tried to revive discussions about a new role and contract. But by then, Puckett was bitter.

"He said, 'Look at them. All of a sudden they want Puck back. All of a sudden everything has been cleared. All of a sudden, they want to rekindle the relationship,' " Harris said. "...He took that as a slap in the face."

• • •

On July 13, 1993, in his eighth consecutive All-Star Game, Puckett was named most valuable player. He left the field in Baltimore to the sound of his favorite song: "What A Wonderful World," sung by Louis Armstrong.

• • •

Puckett had talked about finding a new life outside of baseball. He dreamed of starting a business -- something modest, nothing fancy.

Maybe a car wash. Or a martini bar. Or maybe he could buy the McDonald's restaurant in St. Croix Falls, over by his cabin. He ate there often enough. Why not own the place? His pal Sherm Leske could manage it, and Puckett could come in on Saturdays to sign autographs and promote "Kirby Burgers."

But by late 2003, he had chucked the daydreams for a more quiet life.

He had a new girlfriend, a single mom named Jodi Olson whom he'd met while he was still with Tonya. Even after the divorce, friends said he was careful about being seen in public with her. He wanted to shield her from publicity, and he also was still embarrassed by the trial and aftermath.

So instead of attending high-profile events such as Timberwolves games, he and Olson went up to the cabin. Or they got together with her family to play cards or Yahtzee and down a few pizzas or cocktails.

Some nights, they headed to the Savoy Inn on St. Paul's East Side and grabbed a pizza -- Puckett favored sausage and cheese. Other nights, they dined on steaks at Mancini's Char House, where Puckett would sometimes grab the microphone and sing along with the lounge band.

On warm weekends, they gathered at Puckett's cabin to swim, barbecue and sing karaoke at the downstairs bar he called "Puck's on the Lake." When one weekend ended, he started working on Olson's relatives right away to persuade them to come up again the next week.

"He'd call [my wife] and say, 'You coming up? Cory says it's up to you,' " said Jodi's brother, Cory Olson. "If you didn't call him, he'd say, 'Where's the love? Where's the love?'

"He'd bother you all week until you finally gave in."

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