23-Years Ago Today Kirby Puckett Retires From Minnesota Twins
It was on this day 23-years ago that one of the most memorable Minnesota sports icons, Kirby Puckett, held a press conference at the Metrodome to announce his retirement. It was somewhat of a surprise to Twins fans, as Puckett had a fairly productive Spring Training until he woke up one morning and couldn't see out of his right eye.
According to Twins Almanac's blog post for on this day in Twins history:
"Puckett appeared poised for a big season in 1996, hitting .344 in spring training when he woke up on the final day of camp unable to see out of his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma and placed on the Disabled List for the first time in his career. Four surgeries did nothing to improve his vision before he officially announced his retirement."
Puck as some liked to call him, I preferred the Dave Letterman top-10 ways to mispronounce Kirby's name Turkey Bucket, at the time of his retirement had a .318 career batting average, which according to MLB records at the time was the highest by any right-handed American League batter since Joe DiMaggio.
Puckett was selected 3rd overall in the 1982 MLB draft out of Triton College by way of Bradley University. As we all know he helped the Twins to not one but two World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, and one has to wonder if he didn't succumb to glaucoma and retire, how would the legend of Kirby Puckett play out? Would the team maybe make another miraculous title run? Would his indiscretions that played out after he retired have happened while he was still playing?
I was shattered at the time, thinking how could he just quit. I had always thought that MY team had more magic left in the tank for another World Series run. But with Puckett gone, what was the point of watching or caring about baseball? My sentiment didn't last long, it's a game I've always loved to play and watch, by 1998 I was back to attending weekly games at the 'Dome. Now when I get to a game at Target Field I make sure to stroll by the Kirby statue and smile, knowing his playing of the game made me fall in love with baseball.
I still get goosebumps from hearing the famed call of KIIIIIIIIIRRRRBY PUUUUUUCCKKKETTTT as the batting order was announced.