3.07.2006

So long, Kirby


CORE ^^*2080< ^AP-APNewsAlert<,0018<
¶ PHOENIX (AP) _ Kirby Puckett has died, an Arizona hospital said.


This was one of those "Where were you when..." moments.

At 7:09 CT, news of Kirby Puckett's death came to me at my desk when I was monitoring the AP wire for work.

I first saw Kirby Puckett play in 1986 when I traveled to Minnesota to bring some furniture to a friend's mother. What I remember from by first trip to the Metrodome -- apart from the drunk frat boys sitting behind me yelling at California Angels infielder Rob Wilfong -- was this fire hydrant of a player in center field.

Funny, he did not look like a ball player. He was short. He was rotund. He reminded me a lot of the old swinging beer keg that was the Milwaukee Brewers' logo in the early 1970s.

It would be easy to Kirby Puckett was not. What he was, though, was one of the most exuberant players in an era of self-absorption.

And he could hit. And he could move. And -- if you ask the 1991 Atlanta Braves -- he could defy gravity.

Despite being one of the good guys on the field, it wasn't enough. His downward spiral started when glaucoma forced him to retire after the 1995 season.

Once out of baseball, the 5-foot-8 Puckett (and we're being generous) let himself fall out of shape. Some said he moved well past 300 pounds.

"It's a tough thing to see a guy go through something like that and come to this extent," former teammate Kent Hrbek said. "That's what really hurt him bad, when he was forced out of the game. I don't know if he ever recovered from it."

Though he would not speak pessimistically about his career's sudden and premature end, Puckett's personal life began to deteriorate after that.

Shortly after his 2001 induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his then-wife, Tonya, accused him of threatening to kill her during an argument _ he denied it _ and described to police a history of violence and infidelity.

In 2003, he was cleared of all charges from an alleged sexual assault of a woman at a suburban Twin Cities restaurant.

Farewell, Kirby ... and thank you.

1 comment:

kansas brat said...

You didn't have to change your site name! Now I feel all bad.

Though, at the same time clever...

I can certainly rename the link on my site, if you'd rather write about the world as you see it.