Posted at 8:20 AM on November 4, 2007
by David Zingler
I saw the play “Kirby” by Syl Jones on Saturday at the History Theatre, but since you can probably count on your fingers how many plays I’ve seen, I am hesitant to label this a “review”.
I grew up in the “Kirby Generation” of Minnesota sports. I was 12 in 1987, 16 in 1991. I was at Game 6 in ’91, not too far from where his legendary homerun ball landed. His death brought out emotions in me that I thought I was too jaded to experience, at least for an athlete.
The theme of the play is “Baseball is better than life”, which for Puckett was all too true. I was impressed by the acting overall: Ansa Akyea had Puckett’s mannerisms and speech patterns down, Sha Cage captured the sophisticated Tonya Puckett well and Michelle Hutchinson played the mistress role to a “T”.
The performance also did a good job of contrasting the public and seamy side of Puckett’s life. It showed his flaws and ours as fans. I remembered waiting outside the Chicago Ave (now Kirby Puckett Place) exit of the Metrodome near the Twins ticket office in attempt to snare an autograph during the early 90s only to see the superstar rush by, seemingly indifferent. I didn’t understand then, but do now.
During the play, Tonya wondered aloud “Where (the real) Kirby was?” as Puckett increasingly became a caricature of his upbeat, public persona. As we all now know, Puckett said all the right things in public, but was tormented in private. His forced retirement led to an understandable depression that he took to great lengths to hide.
Puckett was held to a standard by fans that he never completely understood and was ultimately incapable of maintaining. We put him on an unrealistic pedestal and quickly kicked him off it when he showed us his all-too-human flaws. After his untimely death, we felt guilty and quickly made amends. The tragedy is, he didn’t live long enough for him and us to make things right.
This play did a solid job showing all sides of Puckett and casting him as a sympathetic figure. Despite his warts, Puckett left a lifetime of memories for a generation of Twins fans, what more could we ask for than that?