Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"And we'll see ya...tomorrow night"

Whenever any Twins fan hears those words, they get chills. They immediately think of Kirby Puckett's game-winning homerun against the Braves forcing game 7 of the 1991 World Series*.

Baseball lost a hero yesterday when Kirby died. People of my generation associate Twins baseball with Kirby and his too short career. They think of his dedication to the team, the fans, the state. They think of him before that fateful game 6 when he told his team, "get on my back cuz I'm gonna carry you." That he did.

We all ackowledge we wasn't the perfect man, but he was a damned near perfect baseball player. He was one of the last of the great "small-ball" players, advancing runners with bunts, sac flies, taking walks when needed. Not always swinging for the fences though when he did it was impressive. He was one of the last players to spend a prolific career in one place wearing no jersey other than a Twins jersey, number 34. People like to speculate on what kind of player Kirby would have been if his career hadn't ended when he got Glaucoma, sending the Twins into "the dark ages" of the mid- and late-90s.

The Twins of today are heavily influenced by Kirby in their strong defensive playing and their team mentality, still playing small-ball when they can. Torii Hunter patrols the outfield and robs homeruns citing Kirby as his inspiration.

Twins fans, Minnesotans, baseball fans and players alike- we'll all miss you, Kirby.

*Dean was at that game and I have always been immensely jealous. Also, game 7 of the 1991 World Series is known as arguably the best World Series game ever played. Kirby had little to do with that, but it was because of him the Twins made it to game 7. Jack Morris pitched 10 shutout innings. The Twins won by stringing together singles (small ball) in the bottom of the tenth, winning 1-0 and the title of World Champions for the second time in four years. Those were the days.

8 comments:

minnesotablue said...

I just returned from the metrodome,where many people had gathered to give thanks and pay tribute to one of the greatest players to play the game. Today is a sad day in Minnesota but we will always remember Kirby in our hearts. Although I was not able to attend game seven, I did drive downtown to join in the celebration after. I will never forget the exuberance of the fans. Kirbeeeee, you made all of us so proud! Rest in peace.

Runner Girl FL said...

I remember that game. And the one the next night. Mostly from the "other side of the plate". There were no Devil Rays back then. We rooted for the Braves. And they had finally come around after the terrible 80's. But in our house it wasn't quite all Braves. Since my Mom is from up that way we followed the Twins some too. And if the Braves had to lose the series at least the North Dakota side of the family was happy. It was a great game 7 and The twins just wanted it more I guess.

I remember we were Kerby Puckett fans from then on too. We all heard the story too and enjoyed watching him make the network tv night show circuit. Like any great player you didn't care what team he was on. Lucky you that he was on your team.

Kerby will always be a hero to a lot of baseball fans even for those of us who got to know him when we didn't win the World Series.

Sylvia said...

I remember us taking Dean for an autograph of the very young baseball player from Chicago who had just joined the Twins. It was at Shinders in Burnsville if I remember right. I have a feeling Kirby was a very large part in Dean's love of baseball. How many times did we stand in lines at Twinsfest to see Kirby, how many times after games did we wait for a chance for his autograph? It's too bad his personal life had to be made public as he was so admired and loved and influential to so many kids. I am very sad today.

Scott said...

I didn't know he died. Although I am not a Twins fan (don't hate me, but I don't really like baseball) I remember seeing Kirby smack a homer against the A's in Oakland. I was quite impressed.

mom said...

homer hankies, the homer dome, 2 world series titles, teaching your daughter to recite the teams in the american league east and west (when you should have been helping her with her homework) how can you think of these things and not think of kirby puckett?

magnetbabe said...

minnesotablue-
I'm glad you went to the Dome. I wish I could see what it's like there right now.

rgfl-
Yes, I always forget you were on the other side of that series. Liking him in spite of that is a true testament to his personality and attitude.

sylvia-
I KNOW Kirby had a lot to do with why Dean is so in to baseball. I deeply respct the old timers like Killebrew, Carew and Oliva, but for my generation it was all Kirby's doing that we are Twins fans. If I remember correctly, if it were up to Deano you'd have a son named Kirby!

Scott-
Ooooh.. the dreaded A's. I'm glad he smacked one good there. You don't have to like baseball as long as you respect it.

mom-
I have always taken much pride in the baseball education you gave me growing up. What makes this difficult is knowing that it was such a big piece of my childhood. You eating seeds, rooting on the Twins and quizzing me on the teams, me tying a homer hanky in my ponytail. Ahh the memories.

Sylvia said...

You are right! Dean wanted him named Kirby but settled on Kent as a second choice. I do think Kent would have made a good Kirby with his personality and love of the game.

mr. schprock said...

I remember Kirby Puckett, what a great guy and an excellent baseball player he was despite his funny build (I heard he could dunk a basketball in his youth). But boy do I hate it when the Red Sox have to play in that Homer Dome, or whatever you call that place, with the baggies in the outfield and the light-colored ceiling the ball always gets lost in. I prefer your really old field, the one Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew played on. At least you're getting a new one, right?

It's a shame about Kirby. Life's not fair.