Some People's Kids: R.I.P. Kirby

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

R.I.P. Kirby

As a kid growing up in Minnesota Kirby Puckett was my idol, it was almost mandatory for Minnesotans who fall in my age group. His debut with the Twins was a little under a year after I was born and I feel a deep connection to the pudgy superstar with the infectious smile. One year ago today he left this world and ventured into the next. If I have any say in the issue my children, and my children’s children will remember him

Puckett was unlike any other baseball player I’ve ever seen, especially in a day and age where players demand trash bags full of money, act like prima donnas and run amuck when not in uniform. This was a man who loved the game, loved his team and would have played just as hard if nobody was watching. He could invigorate his team with a simple pep talk, that smile of his and the ever present twinkle in his eye. He did things unimaginable for anyone else with the same type of body. He was short and chubby, but that was never what you noticed when he was robbing someone of a home run in center field or outrunning a throw to first.

Some of my best memories involve Kirby. The man whose poster hung above my bed was there for my first baseball game and my first playoff game. I was too young to remember the ’87 World Series, but I remember the ’91 series. I remember my father letting me stay up extra late in the sixth game because it had gone long. I remember waving my homer hanky furiously in the eleventh inning, yelling for Kirby to knock one out of the park. The craziest thing was that he did it, and in my mind he did it just for me.

Puckett was an unbelievable ball player; I’ll run down some of his accomplishments. Between 1986 and 1992 he won 6 straight Gold Gloves. Between 1986 and 1995 he made 10 straight All-star appearances. He was the ALCS MVP in ’91 and the AL MVP in the ’93 All-star game. In 1989 he lead the AL with a .339 batting average and remains at #58 on the all-time list. He led the AL in hits from 1987-1989 and again in 1992. He had the most RBIs in the American League in 1994. Puckett was inducted into the hall of fame in 2001 along with Minnesota product and teammate Dave Winfield.

For Puckett, it wasn’t about the stats. Players need to think about that when they step out onto the diamond. Kirby knew it was a privilege to play baseball for a living, and he shared it with the world. Every single one of his post game interviews began the same way, “ I want to thank god…” sometimes he thanked the big guy for allowing him to play so well, other times he just thanked him for allowing him to play. As a fan you got the sense that Puckett never had a bad day in his life; he was always joking, always happy and always willing to go the extra mile for a teammate, fan or journalist.

If we had a million more Kirbys- not just playing baseball, but doing anything- the world would be a better place. I want to thank you Kirby. I want to thank you for entertaining me. I want to thank you for playing the game and playing it well. But mostly I want to thank you for being my hero and showing me the correct way to carry myself.

You will always be with me, R.I.P #34

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