It’s been reported that Kirby Puckett announced, “Jump on board, boys! I’m going to carry us tonight,” prior to Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. This may have been the “clean” version. Kirby was known at the time to use the “B” word pretty liberally. Three innings later he robbed Ron Gant of extra bases and with Terry Pendleton on first, probably saved a run with an amazing leaping grab in left center. A few innings later he pushed a run across with a sac fly. And then, in the bottom of the eleventh when the rag-armed lefty Charlie Liebrandt came in, he told Al Newman and pitching coach Rick Stelmaszek, “I got this guy! It’s over.” When the ball sailed over the wall, Jack Buck exclaimed rather calmly “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” Kirby Puckett is was the most dynamic player I’ve ever seen and all information is pointing to his death this evening after a massive brain aneurysm. What a blow. I heard the preliminary announcement at about 11:05AM on Sunday morning on the radio. I went numb.
I spent hundred of nights listening to Twins games on the radio and watching on TV when Kirby was playing. It took me a couple of years to really get my heart back in the game after his career was suddenly cut short by glaucoma. We never got a chance to say goodbye. Never got a chance to see him one last time in the pinstripes he, Hrbek, Viola, Gaetti, Laudner, Lombo, Brunansky, Blyleven, Senor Smoke and Larkin ushered in.
Kirby’s life started to unravel after his retirement, but from what I knew of him, he will forever be the player to who all others are compared. A true Hall of Famer and the greatest player in Minnesota history (in my mind and many others). There will never be another “Puck.”
Goodbye. Which way is it to Cooperstown?