'We're all praying for him'

Kirby Puckett, the Twins' Hall of Fame outfielder, suffered a stroke at his Arizona home and had surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

FORT MYERS, FLA. - Kirby Puckett, a baseball Hall of Famer and the driving force behind the Twins' two World Series titles, was in critical condition and fighting for life early this morning after he suffered a stroke early Sunday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Puckett was first rushed to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn where he was in surgery for most of the afternoon, said Twins President Dave St. Peter. Puckett was transferred after the surgery to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, St. Peter said.

Two people familiar with Puckett's condition said he suffered bleeding in the brain and surgery was required to drain blood and relieve pressure.

At 1:30 a.m. today, the Associated Press reported that a nursing supervisor at St. Joseph's, who declined to give her full name, said Puckett was in critical condition.

She did not provide additional details.

"It's distressing news," said former Twins manager Tom Kelly, who is working with the team at its spring training camp. "We had a doctor come in and try to explain to us probably what's going to happen. The last thing he said was that if he has good luck, things will hopefully work out. So let's hope that he has good luck."

Puckett, 44, was selected to 10 American League All-Star teams during his 12 major league seasons. He also won six Gold Gloves for his defensive prowess in the outfield and was a career .318 hitter -- well above baseball's standard of excellence of .300. Puckett's career ended prematurely in 1996 because of irreversible damage to his right eye as a result of glaucoma. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 -- baseball's ultimate honor.

But Puckett's personal life had taken a downward turn since that honor. He virtually disappeared from public view in 2002 after his ex-wife, Tonya, alleged that he abused her and threatened to kill her. In 2003, he was acquitted of three charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a woman at an Eden Prairie restaurant.

Puckett, who played at around 210 pounds, has gained considerable weight since he retired, and many friends in and outside of the organization have worried that he was headed for trouble with his health.

"We were all concerned," said Jacque Jones, the former Twins outfielder now with the Cubs, who has spent time with Puckett recently. "But a man is going to be a man, and a woman is going to be a woman. You can't change what they do unless they want to change. Puck enjoyed life, he enjoyed the size he was. That's who he was."

Twins reaction

The news hit the Twins clubhouse hard Sunday morning.

Outfielder Torii Hunter, who remains close to Puckett, took himself out the lineup for Sunday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at Hammond Stadium, saying he "couldn't focus on anything."

Hunter left the ballpark and spent the rest of the day getting updates on Puckett's condition.

"I learned about this game from him," Hunter said. "He's a guy I look to like he's an older brother. I've come up in this game just by watching what Kirby Puckett is all about."

Manager Ron Gardenhire looked stunned for most of the day as he and Twins coaches discussed Puckett's condition.

"Our thoughts and our prayers are turned towards Puck in Arizona," Gardenhire said. "We all heard about this before lunch and that pretty much takes away from anything you do at a ballpark. We did the best we could do today and the game was whatever ... it was a game."

When asked to describe Puckett's stature within the organization, Gardenhire paused, seemingly to compose himself, before saying, "Not right now."

Friends gathering

Some of Puckett's friends and former teammates either went to the hospital or are traveling to Arizona to be with him.

Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew and former teammate Ron Washington spent most of the day at the hospital. They were later joined by Eddie Guardado, and Jones planned to arrive later. Washington (a coach with the Oakland Athletics), Guardado (a Seattle Mariners relief pitcher) and Jones all train in Arizona. Killebrew was seen leaving the hospital with a group of players Sunday evening.

"He's a big part of the reason why I play this game the way I play it," Jones said. "He's a great person. We all learned from him -- me, Torii, Matt Lawton, Eddie, LaTroy [Hawkins] -- Puck tutored us all.

"It'd be tough to meet a guy that's any better than him. He's was always happy-go-lucky, even when he came down with glaucoma. That was one of the best speeches I ever heard, telling people don't feel sorry for him, that he enjoyed the game, enjoyed every minute of it. That's why he played every game like it was his last, because you never know when that day is going to come."

Twins radio broadcaster Dan Gladden, one of Puckett's closest friends and a teammate from 1987 to '91, intended to fly from Fort Myers to Arizona Sunday evening. Hunter said he was also making plans to fly to Arizona.

The last time some people in the organization saw Puckett was in November during Killebrew's charity golf tournament in Arizona.

"He was trying to do better," Gardenhire said. "... It was fun to see him."

Face of the team

Puckett hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history, when his shot in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series forced Game 7 against Atlanta. The Twins won the Series, their second in five years. Puckett remains an iconic figure with the club, although he has continued to keep a low profile and moved to the Phoenix area after his acquittal on the sexual assault charges in 2003. He was planning to be married again in June; he has two children by his first marriage with Tonya.

Puckett was employed as a Twins vice president from 1996 to 2002 before parting ways. This year, the team tried unsuccessfully to get him to return to spring training as a special instructor, and it still hopes to get him to return to the organization in some capacity one day.

"The Twins and Kirby Puckett are synonymous," St. Peter said. "He's a giant. In many ways he's the signature element of our franchise. In some ways I think he's one of those lovable characters, both on and off the field, that really brought a lot of people to the game. That infectious smile and the way he played the game.

"I tell people that the way I define Kirby Puckett's popularity is by the thousands and thousands of dogs and cats named after him throughout the Upper Midwest. Kirby and I always laughed about that. We're all praying for him."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 Bottom 4th Inning
Washington 2
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 50 2nd Half 4:08
Siena 65
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 34 2nd Half 11:50
UCLA 50
Texas State 51 2nd Half 5:43
Appalachian St 53
TX-Arlington 59 2nd Half 7:41
Georgia Southern 24
SC State 27 2nd Half
Bethune-Cookman 24
Delaware State 27 2nd Half 17:07
Coppin State 45
Portland 26 2nd Half 17:52
Santa Clara 38
Norfolk State 17 2nd Half
Hampton 28
NC A&T 38 2nd Half
NC Central 18
Savannah State 22 1st Half 11:00
Florida A&M 13
Virginia Tech 14 1st Half 7:19
Pittsburgh 14
Central Arkansas 10 1st Half 6:39
Nicholls 26
Houston Baptist 14 1st Half 7:41
TX A&M-CC 22
Gardner-Webb 21 1st Half 7:38
Radford 15
Georgia 21 1st Half 7:50
Missouri 14
Old Dominion 16 1st Half 7:48
Marshall 18
Ark-Little Rock 18 1st Half 9:18
Louisiana 9
South Alabama 14 1st Half 7:56
Arkansas State 26
Georgia State 4 1st Half 14:19
ULM 6
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close