Kirby Puckett, 1960–2006

In the fall of 1990, I went to see a Twins-Roy­als game in the Homer Dome. Do I need to men­tion that the Roy­als were not con­tend­ing for a play­off spot? They weren't, and nei­ther were the Twins. There were approx­i­mate­ly 1000 peo­ple there, but the rare assort­ment of play­ers on the field has made the game stick in my mem­o­ry. Roy­al leg­end George Brett was lock­ing down a bat­ting title in a third decade.[1] Bo Jack­son was about to play his last base­ball game at full strength. And Kir­by Puck­ett was in his prime, smil­ing, clown­ing, and inspir­ing even the Roy­als fans (me and my friends) among the crowd to cheer for him.My friends and I had an entire left-field sec­tion to our­selves, and the Metrodome's infa­mous acoustics com­bined with the absence of peo­ple pro­vid­ed my friend Adlai with a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to ensure that Twins fan favorite Dan Glad­den heard his every com­ment about his mul­let. It also afford­ed us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear Kir­by clown­ing around with peo­ple in the cen­ter field bleach­ers. At that point, no one could argue that Puck was any­thing but a great guy. He was fun; the Twins were good; the Twins infa­mous­ly fair-weath­er fans didn't real­ly seem to appre­ci­ate him at that moment, but he didn't let it get to him.A lit­tle over a year lat­er, his hero­ics would pro­pel the Twins to anoth­er World Series cham­pi­onship, and his leap­ing Game 6 catch, com­bined with the game-win­ning dinger, would com­prise one of the great all-time clutch per­for­mances. Every­thing after that seemed out of character.[1] At this point, this seems even more remark­able than it did then. Seri­ous­ly, who else is going to pull that off? Todd Hel­ton in 2011? Maybe, but not likely.