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Where have you gone Kirby Puckett?

Posted at 8:36 AM on October 27, 2005 by David Zingler (12 Comments)

It was fourteen years ago this week that Kirby Puckett inspired Jack Buck to exclaim, "We'll see you tomorrow night" with his 11th inning, walk off homerun in Game 6 of the World Series. Sadly, it was also three years ago last month that the once untouchable local icon was arrested for allegedly groping a woman at a posh suburban dining establishment. Of course, the Twins took home the title in '91 and Kirby was later acquitted of criminal charges, but not all endings are happy.

Retirement hasn't been kind to Kirby. After his career ended in 1996 due an eye condition that currently severely affects his vision, the Twins basically exploited him for a series of promotions in hopes of generating interest in their morbid franchise (not that Kirby was complaining, he was paid handsomely). Back then the bowling ball shaped former slugger was everywhere, whether it was his daily visits to the Dome for work, radio and television endorsements or his annual charity billiard tournament.

Soon after his 2001 Hall of Fame induction however, the bottom fell out. In addition to his before-mentioned legal troubles, Puckett had a former mistress spill her guts on sports talk radio and fell victim to a Sports Illustrated smear job. That doesn't play well in the land of Minnesota Nice. As a result, he's now less visible than Mark Dayton.

I sincerely hope the ancient "time heals all wounds" adage applies to Kirby. Despite his warts, he is the undisputed face of the only two Minnesota-based world championship teams since the Lakers called Minneapolis home. He brought immense joy to this state at one time, so maybe we should think about sending a little his way. I'm sure he could use it.

Comments (12)

I agree...I miss Kirby was remarkable what he did and how he did it...the personal lives people lead, well, we only catch the headlines, but Kirby should always feel welcome at the Twins offices, or the Dome or anywhere in baseball. The guy we loved fell short of being perfect, and who doesn't?

Posted by Dave Lawler | October 27, 2005 1:51 PM

Thanks, I agree. I miss him, too. Unlike some center fielders, he was a great center fielder AND a great hitter. Not only did Kirby not point fingers at his teammates and management, he told the Twins to climb on his back, and he meant it: he came through more than once.

He and I are almost exactly the same age. Sorry he made some stupid mistakes, but if I were rich, famous and retired at 40, I'm not sure I could guarantee I would have been a model of virtue, either.

Posted by Craig H. | October 27, 2005 4:52 PM

Smear job is right. I can't believe that Frank DeFord signed that piece of crap.

Posted by SBG | October 28, 2005 3:31 PM

Kirby will always be my favorite baseball player. His career ended to short and he really got the shaft in the media. No longer do they think of what he did on the field, everyone always talks about what he did off the field.

Kirby, we miss you.

Posted by Tim | October 28, 2005 9:47 PM

He's less visible since he moved to Phoenix, guys. Of course he's less visible.

Posted by Kevin Reichard | November 2, 2005 10:14 AM

Well these weren't just mistakes, but apparently serious, long-term character flaws that we just heard about in the last few years. The "SI Smear Job" included a number of points from police reports and affidavits, including his holding a cocked pistol to the head of his wife at one point and, when asked about visiting a sick kid in a hospital, saying "I don't give a s***. It's just another sick kid."

Hey I loved Kirby on the field as much as anyone-- I was lucky enough to be at the 6th game in 91 too. But this stuff makes that just a distant memory. I won't be memorializing Kirby anytime soon.


Posted by Terry Elliott | November 27, 2005 2:58 PM

We named our son after Kirby Puckett. Kirby was a great player and he made things happen when the Twins needed things to happen. You know like the difference between a gold medalist and a 4th place winner, (both great,yet one much more sweeter).The lives we lead, the people we become behind closed doors are usually raw and not so pretty... Most of us know if our own lives were critiqued and judged,like his was, we would not fair much better.Those last names we carry with pride, would be a name of shame, forever branded with the red letter, "S" worn for all to see... Do you see where this is going? So I say let us celebrate the time Kirby was with us and let this day remind us the reason we all came to know the name of Kirby Puckett, the reason we love this game, the reason the 5'8" and under players still dream of making it in the Pros, the reason he seemed like a ordinary person when he was diagnosed with Gluccomma and retired from baseball, and the reason ordinary people like me name our sons Kirby. I hope Kirby's family knows how much his death has saddened us, but may they have comfort in the fact that I will always remember a great baseball player named Kirby Puckett whenever I call out my sons name.

Posted by teresa | March 7, 2006 3:38 AM

Kirby was introduced to myself and my children in the 1980's. We learned about his talents and abilities through my friend, Lowell. Lowell followed "Mr. Kir-r-r-r-r-by Puck-ett"'s career as closely as any fan, relating each success and trial to us. We were impressed by the leadership, personality and athletic abilities of this wonderful Minnisota Twins star.
I will always be grateful to Kirby for the unification our family had, being able to cheer for Kirby to make us proud one more time. We're glad you shared your public life with us, Kirby.
As far as the lady involved in the groping episode, she has my sympathies. Our hero carried human flaws, and lack of proper judgement and respect for this lady. I would hope that the positives in his life can outlive the negative frailties that he exhibited at the worst times of his life.
Kirby, thanks for the memories.

Posted by Connie | March 7, 2006 9:14 AM


You were truly one of the Greats.

You will be missed.


Posted by Bob | March 7, 2006 3:29 PM

My Grandma Gotha Wilcox was a saint and she just loved Kirby, and now Grandma and Kirby can hang out together with my Dad, not only was my dad my Hero, Kirby is too and so now, Kirby, Gotha, and my Dad, Butch, can play cribbage and talk about baseball and the good ol' days! I just loved Kirby and I will miss him so much, I already miss him soo much.

Posted by Julie Misukanis | March 7, 2006 9:21 PM

RIP Kirby! You made watching baseball fun again!

Posted by Chris | March 15, 2006 1:08 AM

growing up in Florida you wouldn't think i would be a Puckett fan, but I was. i loved everything about the guy and he was an inspiration for me as a young boy. i was very saddened by his untimely passing, and i know he knows that he was loved by so many people, even outside of MN. all his true fans and lovers of real great baseball players will never forget his smile and great play.

Posted by mike | June 21, 2006 4:20 AM

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