Tuesday, March 07, 2006

RIP Kirby

Kirby Puckett passed away due to a stroke. He was one of the best stories from baseball in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was built like a hedgehog and was always smiling. Because of his smaller size and huge smile, it was like a kid really was playing in centerfield. I remember that every kid loved Kirby Puckett at school, and it didn’t matter that he was a Twin and not a superstar for the Red Sox. Like most Americans, my memory of him is the game where he snagged a bomb off of the plexiglass wall in the Metrodome and then hit the game winning home run in extra innings as Joe Buck yelled “We’ll see you tomorrow night!” I remember sitting in my cousin’s basement living room watching the game with the one Braves fan in Maine. I just got the chills typing that memory out. That game was Kirby Puckett living out every kid’s baseball dream: snatch the homerun from the wall and then hit a home run when you come up. His story of a rise out of poverty or how he swung at everything because playing stick ball as a kid the taped box that was he strike zone on the wall behind him was almost as tall as him were great stories. I was sad to see him announce his retirement. It didn’t seem fair to fans that a great player who made the game fun retired because of a horrific beaning which brought on his eye problems. Heck, why couldn’t it have happened to Barry Bonds instead?

Of course, everyone’s world got rocked when Sports Illustrated did the expose on Kirby Puckett’s outside the lines problems. Kirby had his issues outside of the game, but it did not take away from how it made me feel about him as a player. Sure, he targeted overweight single moms on welfare because he found it easier to manipulate and use them. He also disliked doing all of the charity work or how once he did some of it, it was expected of him. Did that shock me? Yes. Does it really matter what goes on behind closed doors? No. Would you want your secrets written all over the news? No. I get tired of the digging into athletes lives, and Kirby’s secrets were dark, seedy, and not necessary. Ultimately, these athletes that kids use as role models are just as human as their neighbors. Kirby was fun and I’ll always remember him for his swing and smile.

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