Kirby Puckett (March 14, 1960 – March 6, 2006) was an American professional baseball player. He played his entire 12-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career as a center fielder for the Minnesota Twins (1984–95). Puckett is the Twins' all-time leader in career hits, runs, and total bases. At the time of his retirement, his .318 career batting average was the highest by any right-handed American League batter since Joe DiMaggio.
Puckett was the fourth baseball player during the 20th century to record 1,000 hits in his first five full calendar years in Major League Baseball, and was the second to record 2,000 hits during his first ten full calendar years. After being forced to retire in 1996 at age 36 due to loss of vision in one eye from a central retinal vein occlusion, Puckett was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year of eligibility.
Puckett in 1997
|Born: March 14, 1960|
|Died: March 6, 2006 (aged 45)|
|May 8, 1984, for the Minnesota Twins|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 28, 1995, for the Minnesota Twins|
|Runs batted in||1,085|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||82.14% (first ballot)|
Puckett was born in Chicago, Illinois, and he was raised in Robert Taylor Homes, a housing project on Chicago's South Side (the escape from which he frequently referred to during his career). He played baseball for Calumet High School (Chicago). After receiving no scholarship offers following graduation, Puckett went to work on an assembly line for Ford Motor Company. However, he was given a chance to attend Bradley University and after one year transferred to Triton College. Despite his 5' 8" frame, the Minnesota Twins selected him in the first round (third pick) of the 1982 Major League Baseball January Draft-Regular Phase.
After signing with the team, he went to the rookie-league Elizabethton Twins in the Appalachian League, hitting .382, with 3 home runs, 35 RBI, and 43 steals in 65 games. In 1983, Puckett was promoted to the Single-A Visalia Oaks in the California League, where he hit .318 with 9 home runs, 97 RBI, and 48 stolen bases over 138 games. After being promoted to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens to start the 1984 season, Puckett was brought up to the majors for good 21 games into the season.
Puckett's major league debut came on May 8, 1984, against the California Angels, a game in which he went 4 for 5 with one run. That year, Puckett hit .296 and was fourth in the American League in singles. In 1985, Puckett hit .288 and finished fourth in the league in hits, third in triples, second in plate appearances, and first in at bats. Throughout his career, Puckett would routinely appear in the top 10 in the American League in such offensive statistical categories as games played, at bats, singles, doubles, and total bases and such defensive stats as putouts, assists, and fielding percentage for league center fielders.
In 1986, Puckett began to emerge as more than just a singles hitter. With an average of .328, Puckett was elected to his first Major League Baseball All-Star Game and he finished the season seventh in doubles, sixth in home runs, fourth in extra base hits, third in slugging percentage, and second in runs scored, hits, total bases, and at bats. Kirby was also recognized for his defensive skills, earning his first Gold Glove Award.
In 1987, the Twins reached the postseason for the first time since 1970 despite finishing with a mark of 85-77 (a mark that would have put them 4 games behind fourth place New York in the American League East). Once there, Puckett helped lead the Twins to the 1987 World Series, the Twins' second series appearance since relocating to Minnesota and fifth in franchise history. For the season, Puckett batted .332 with 28 home runs and 99 RBI Although he hit only .208 in the Twins' five game AL Championship Series win over the Detroit Tigers, Puckett would produce in the seven-game World Series upset over the St. Louis Cardinals, where he batted .357.
During the year, Puckett put on his best performance on August 30 in Milwaukee against the Brewers, when he went 6-for-6 with two home runs, one off Juan Nieves in the third and the other off closer Dan Plesac in the ninth.
Statistically speaking, Puckett had his best all-around season in 1988, hitting .356 with 24 home runs and 121 RBI, finishing third in the AL MVP balloting for the second straight season. Although the Twins won 91 games, six more than in their championship season, the team finished a distant second in the American League West, 13 games behind the Oakland Athletics.
Puckett won the AL batting title in 1989 with a mark of .339, while also finishing fifth in at bats, second in doubles, first in hits, and second in singles. The Twins, two years removed from the championship season, slumped further, going 80-82 and ended in fifth place, 19 games behind the Athletics. In April 1989, he recorded his 1,000th hit, becoming the fourth player in Major League Baseball history to do so in his first five seasons. He continued to play well in 1990, but had a down season, finishing with a .298 batting average, and the Twins mirrored his performance as the team slipped all the way to last place in the AL West with a record of 74-88.
In 1991, the Twins got back on the winning track and Puckett led the way by batting .319, eighth in the league and Minnesota surged past Oakland midseason to capture the division title. The Twins then beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the American League Championship Series as Puckett batted .429 with two home runs and five RBI to win the ALCS MVP.
The subsequent 1991 World Series was ranked by ESPN to be the best ever played, with four games decided on the final pitch and three games going into extra innings. The Twins and their opponent, the Atlanta Braves, had each finished last in their respective divisions in the year before winning their league pennant, something that had never happened before.
Going into Game 6, the Twins trailed three games to two with each team winning their respective home games. Puckett gave the Twins an early lead by driving in Chuck Knoblauch with a triple in the first inning. Puckett then made a leaping catch in front of the Plexiglass wall in left field to rob Ron Gant of an extra-base hit in the third. The game went into extra innings, and in the first at-bat of the bottom of the 11th, Puckett hit a dramatic game-winning home run on a 2–1 count off of Charlie Leibrandt to send the Series to Game 7. This dramatic game has been widely remembered as the high point in Puckett's career. The images of Puckett rounding the bases, arms raised in triumph (often punctuated by CBS television broadcaster Jack Buck saying "And we'll see you tomorrow night!"), are always included in video highlights of his career. After Game 6, the Twins replaced the blue seat back and bottom where the walk off home run ball was caught with a gold colored set. Both of these sets remain in the Twins' archives. The original home run seat armrests and hardware, as well as the replacement blue seat back and bottom, are now in a private collection of Puckett memorabilia in Minnesota after the Metrodome was torn down. The Twins then went on to win Game 7 1-0, with Jack Morris throwing a 10-inning complete game, and claimed their second World Series crown in five years.
However, the Twins did not make it back to the postseason during the rest of Puckett's career, although Puckett continued to play well. In 1994, Puckett was switched to right field and won his first league RBI title by driving in 112 runs. He was having another brilliant season in 1995 before having his jaw broken by a Dennis Martínez fastball on September 28.
|Kirby Puckett's number 34 was retired by the Minnesota Twins in 1997.|
After spending the spring of 1996 continuing to blister Grapefruit League batting with a .344 average, Puckett woke up on March 28 without vision in his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma, and was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his professional career. Three surgeries over the next few months could not restore vision in the eye. When it was apparent that he would never be able to play again, Puckett announced his retirement on July 12, 1996, at the age of 36. Soon after, the Twins made him an executive vice-president of the team and he would also receive the 1996 Roberto Clemente Award for community service.
The Twins retired Puckett's number 34 in 1997. In 2001 balloting, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. In 1999, he ranked Number 86 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.
Puckett was admired throughout his career. His unquestionable baseball prowess, outgoing personality and energy, charity work, community involvement, and attitude earned him the respect and admiration of fans across the country. In 1993, he received the Branch Rickey Award for his lifetime of community service work.
Following his retirement, Puckett's reputation was damaged by a number of incidents. In March 2002, a woman filed for an order of protection against Puckett's wife, Tonya Puckett, claiming that Tonya had threatened to kill her over an alleged affair with Puckett. Later that same month, another woman asked for protection from Puckett himself, claiming in court documents that he had shoved her in his Bloomington condominium during the course of an 18-year relationship. In September 2002, Puckett was accused of groping a woman in a restaurant bathroom and was charged with false imprisonment, fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and fifth-degree assault. He was found not guilty of all counts.
In the March 17, 2003 edition of Sports Illustrated, columnist George Dohrmann wrote an article entitled "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett". The article documented Puckett's alleged indiscretions and contrasted his private image with the much-revered public image he had previously maintained. Specifically, the article stated that Puckett had extramarital relationships with several women and that a female Minnesota Twins employee had obtained a financial settlement following a claim that Puckett had sexually harassed her. The article added Tonya Puckett had called police on December 21, 2001 to report that Puckett had threatened to kill her. Withdrawing from the Twins organization and from friends, Puckett moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in the winter of 2003 with his fiancee, Jodi Olson, and her son Cameron. Those who did see him became concerned about Puckett's weight, with estimates putting it above 300 pounds. However, there was also optimism with news that Puckett planned to marry Olson in June 2005.
On the morning of March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke at the home he shared with Olson. He underwent emergency surgery that day to relieve pressure on his brain; however, the surgery failed, and his former teammates and coaches were notified the following morning that the end was near. Many, including 1991 teammates Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek, flew to Phoenix to be at his bedside during his final hours along with his two children Kirby Jr. and Catherine. His fiancee never left his side. Puckett died on March 6, just 8 days from his 46th birthday, shortly after being disconnected from life support.
In the subsequent autopsy, the official cause of death was recorded as "cerebral hemorrhage due to hypertension." Puckett died at the second-youngest age (behind Lou Gehrig) of any Hall of Famer inducted while living, and the youngest to die after being inducted in the modern era of the five-season waiting period. Puckett was survived by his son Kirby Jr. and daughter Catherine.
A private memorial service was held in the Twin Cities suburb of Wayzata on the afternoon of March 12 (declared "Kirby Puckett Day" in Minneapolis), followed by a public ceremony held at the Metrodome attended by family, friends, ballplayers past and present, and approximately 15,000 fans (an anticipated capacity crowd dwindled through the day due to an impending blizzard). Speakers at the latter service included Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Dave Winfield, and many former teammates and coaches.
On April 12, 2010, a statue of Puckett was unveiled at the plaza of Target Field in Minneapolis. The plaza runs up against the stadium's largest gate, Gate 34, numbered in honor of Puckett. The statue represents Puckett pumping his fist while running the bases, as he did after his winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.
At the time of his own retirement in 2016, former Twin and longtime Boston Red Sox first baseman/designated hitter David Ortiz stated that he had selected player no. 34 for his own use with the Red Sox to honor Puckett's friendship with him as he had started play in MLB with the Twins.
Ortiz asked for No. 34 when he arrived in Boston before the 2003 season because he wanted to honor Minnesota Twins great Kirby Puckett. In a poignant moment, the Red Sox invited the late Puckett's family to Fenway Park and introduced them on the field..."When I chose to wear that number, I was proud of wearing it because of the person that I was wearing it for," Ortiz said. "It was somebody that was very special to my career even if it was early in my career. He did special things, and somebody that special needs special things. When I saw [Puckett's children] coming toward me, I thought about Kirby -- a lot."
The 1984 Minnesota Twins season was a season in American baseball. The team finished with a record of 81-81, tied for second in the American League West, and three games behind the division winner Kansas City Royals. Their 81-81 record was an 11-game improvement from 1983, and a 21-game improvement from their 102-loss season of 1982 (the third-worst record in franchise history).
1,598,692 fans attended Twins games, a Twins attendance record, but still the fifth-lowest total in the American League. Towards the end of the season, Calvin Griffith sold the club to local investor Carl Pohlad.1985 Minnesota Twins season
The 1985 Minnesota Twins finished with a record of 77-85, tied for fourth in the American League West, and 14 games behind the division winner and eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.1986 Minnesota Twins season
The 1986 Minnesota Twins finished at 71-91, sixth in the AL West, 21 games behind the eventual AL runner-up California Angels. 1,255,453 fans attended Twins games, the second lowest total in the American League. Pitcher Bert Blyleven made a prediction on Fan Appreciation Day on October 3, saying that if the team came together as a unit and signed some other good players, they could potentially bring a World Series championship to Minnesota. That prediction proved accurate the next year.1988 Minnesota Twins season
The 1988 Minnesota Twins finished at 91-71, second in the AL West. 3,030,672 fans attended Twins games, at the time, establishing a new major league record. Pitcher Allan Anderson had his most successful season in 1988, winning the American League ERA title at 2.45 and compiling a record of 16-9 in 30 starts.1989 Minnesota Twins season
The 1989 Minnesota Twins finished 80-82, fifth in the AL West. 2,277,438 fans attended Twins games, the seventh highest total in the American League.1990 Minnesota Twins season
The 1990 Minnesota Twins, three years after their World Series title in 1987, fell to the bottom of the AL West once again. However, the season was not completely bad, as there were some bright spots that included pitchers Rick Aguilera and Scott Erickson. Aguilera converted from starter to closer and recorded 32 saves, while Erickson was promoted to the Twins in June from AA and went 8-4 with a 3.27 ERA. During Fan Appreciation Day on October 3, Outfielder Dan Gladden made a prediction on saying that even though we finished in last place this season, we're going to improve next season and if we did, they could potentially bring another World Series championship to Minnesota. That prediction proved accurate the next year.1991 American League Championship Series
The 1991 American League Championship Series was played between the Minnesota Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays from October 8 to 13. The Twins defeated the favored Blue Jays, winning the Series four games to one. Minnesota would go on to face (and ultimately defeat) the Atlanta Braves in seven games in 1991 World Series, ranked by ESPN as the greatest ever played.
This was the first postseason series played entirely indoors, as both teams played in domed stadiums.
Minnesota outfielder Kirby Puckett was named the Series MVP, based on his .429 batting average, two home runs, and five RBI.1991 Minnesota Twins season
The 1991 Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball (MLB) won the World Series, the second time the Twins had won the World Series since moving to Minnesota in 1961. During the 1991 regular season the Twins had an MLB-leading 15-game win streak, which remains a club record. On June 18, 1991, the streak came to an end at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles but not before the Twins moved from fifth place to first, a lead they would not relinquish until winning baseball's championship. The Twins' winning streak of 1991 falls just seven games short of the all-time American League (AL) record of 22 consecutive regular season wins set by the Cleveland Indians in 2017.
The Twins finished 95-67, first in the AL West, which represented a turnaround from 1990, when the team finished last in the division with a 74-88 record. They were the first team to go from a last-place finish to a World Series championship. They and the Atlanta Braves were the first teams to go from last place to a pennant. The Twins defeated the Braves in seven games in a Series which has been considered one of the best to have ever been played.There was a considerable reshaping of the team in January and February, beginning when third baseman Gary Gaetti left as a free agent on January 25 and signed with the California Angels. Less than 12 hours after Gaetti's departure, the Twins signed free agent Mike Pagliarulo from the New York Yankees as a new third baseman. Two more key free agent signings followed with designated hitter Chili Davis on January 30 and St. Paul native Jack Morris on February 5. The July 1989 blockbuster trade that sent 1988 AL Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola to the New York Mets in exchange for relief pitchers Rick Aguilera and David West and starter Kevin Tapani proved to be pivotal to the 1991 season. There were only seven players still on the roster from the 1987 World Championship team, none of them pitchers: Randy Bush, Greg Gagne, Dan Gladden, Kent Hrbek, Gene Larkin, Al Newman, and future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Into this framework, young stars were blended successfully, including Scott Leius to platoon with Pagliarulo at third, Shane Mack in right field, Scott Erickson, a 20-game winner with a 12-game winning streak, and A.L. Rookie of the Year second baseman Chuck Knoblauch.
2,293,842 fans attended Twins games, the eighth highest total in the American League.1992 Minnesota Twins season
Coming off a World Series victory, the 1992 Minnesota Twins continued the team's winning spree. The team finished in second place to the Oakland Athletics and did not make it to the postseason. This would be the team's last winning season until 2001.1993 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The 1993 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 64th playing of the midsummer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 13, 1993, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, the home of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League. The game resulted in the American League defeating the National League 9-3.
This is also the last Major League Baseball All-Star Game to date to be televised by CBS.1993 Minnesota Twins season
The 1993 Minnesota Twins underperformed in their last year in the old American League West Division, finishing with a 71-91 record, leaving the team tied for fifth place with the California Angels. There were bright spots for Manager Tom Kelly. This included Kirby Puckett winning the All-Star MVP award on July 13. Another bright spot was St. Paul native Dave Winfield getting his 3,000th hit in his first year back with his hometown team.1994 Minnesota Twins season
The 1994 Minnesota Twins played in an abbreviated, strike-shortened season. The strike overshadowed the season's accomplishments. These included Scott Erickson's no-hitter on April 27, Chuck Knoblauch's 85-game errorless streak and league-leading 45 doubles, Kirby Puckett's 2,000th hit, and Kent Hrbek's retirement. In 113 games, Manager Tom Kelly's team finished with a record of 53-60, for fourth place in the newly created American League Central Division.1995 Minnesota Twins season
Although the 1995 Minnesota Twins were separated from a world championship by only four years, it seemed like eons. Because of the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike, the season got off to a late start. However, it did not end soon enough, as the team finished with a 56-88 record and in last place in its division. The team found it impossible to compete against the runaway Cleveland Indians who won 100 games despite the short season and finished 44 games ahead of the Twins. By July, the team was trading away its veterans in a fire sale. Manager Tom Kelly might have preferred that the strike had continued.2001 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting
Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2001 followed the system in use since 1995. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and elected two: Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield. The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions and selected two people from multiple classified ballots: Bill Mazeroski and Hilton Smith.
Induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York, were held August 5 with Commissioner Bud Selig presiding.Bob Casey (baseball announcer)
Bob Casey (April 11, 1925 – March 27, 2005) was the only public address announcer in Minnesota Twins history until 2005. He started announcing Twins games when the franchise moved to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., in 1961.
Casey worked 44 seasons and more than 3,000 games for the Twins. He was inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame in 2003.Gene Larkin
Eugene Thomas Larkin (born October 24, 1962) is a former switch-hitting first baseman, designated hitter, and right fielder in Major League Baseball who played his entire seven-season career with the Minnesota Twins. During his playing career he wore #9 for Minnesota, and was a member of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series championship teams. He is best known for hitting the series-winning single, a deep fly ball that was not caught by the Braves' drawn-in outfield and scored Dan Gladden from third base during the tenth inning in Game 7 of the 1991 Series.
Larkin was one of seven Twins to be part of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series teams. The other six were Randy Bush, Greg Gagne, Kirby Puckett, Al Newman, Kent Hrbek and Gladden.
Larkin attended Columbia University, where he played for the Lions and was later drafted in the 20th round of the 1984 amateur draft. He was the first alumnus of Columbia University to make the major leagues since Lou Gehrig. He also graduated from Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York. He currently lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where he coaches youth travel baseball and is the Vice President of Players Only Incorporated (http://www.playersonlyinc.com/), where he does private and group instruction.
In a 7 year, 758 game major league career, Larkin compiled a .266 batting average (618-for-2321) with 275 runs, 32 home runs and 266 RBI. He recorded a .992 fielding percentage at first base and right and left field. In the postseason, in 1987 and 1991 for the Twins, he hit .273 (3-for-11) with 2 RBI.List of Minnesota Twins team records
This is a listing of statistical records and milestone achievements of the Minnesota Twins franchise.Minnesota Twins award winners and league leaders
This is a list of award winners and league leaders for the Minnesota Twins professional baseball team.Silver Slugger Award
The Silver Slugger Award is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position in both the American League and the National League, as determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball. These voters consider several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, in addition to "coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value". Managers and coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own team. The Silver Slugger was first awarded in 1980 and is given by Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats. The award is a bat-shaped trophy, 3 feet (91 cm) tall, engraved with the names of each of the winners from the league and plated with sterling silver.The prize is presented to outfielders irrespective of their specific position. This means that it is possible for three left fielders, or any other combination of outfielders, to win the award in the same year, rather than one left fielder, one center fielder, and one right fielder. In addition, only National League pitchers receive a Silver Slugger Award; lineups in the American League include a designated hitter in place of the pitcher in the batting order, so the designated hitter receives the award instead.Home run record-holder Barry Bonds won twelve Silver Slugger Awards in his career as an outfielder, the most of any player. He also won the award in five consecutive seasons twice in his career: from 1990 to 1994, and again from 2000 to 2004. Retired former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and former New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez are tied for second, with ten wins each. Rodriguez' awards are split between two positions; he won seven Silver Sluggers as a shortstop for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, and three with the Yankees as a third baseman. Wade Boggs leads third basemen with eight Silver Slugger Awards; Barry Larkin leads shortstops with nine. Other leaders include Ryne Sandberg (seven wins as a second baseman) and Mike Hampton (five wins as a pitcher). Todd Helton and Albert Pujols are tied for the most wins among first baseman with four, although Pujols has won two awards at other positions. David Ortiz has won seven awards at designated hitter position, the most at that position.