He Touched Us All: Goodbye Kirby Puckett

And We'll see you tomorrow night.
One of the more contageous smiles you'll ever find.
"It may be cloudy in my right eye, but the sun is shining very brightly in my left eye."
When I first heard the news of Kirby Puckett's stroke I was surprised, but not sad. Surely, I thought, a 45 year old would pull though. I mean I read he was in serious condition, but then again I doubt anyone feels fantastic after a stroke. Serious meant nothing to me.

When I first heard the news of Kirby Puckett being taken off life support I was surprised and saddened, but not all that sad. Surely, I thought, this was just a good sign, after all people come of life support at some time during recovery. Last I heard his situation had improved. I awaited the good news eagerly.

When I first read the news he had died I was dumbfounded. Clearly I had gone to the wrong ESPN.com. Someone was playing a cruel joke on us all. I looked for the refresh button, or better yet a reset button.

Denial can be a strange thing sometimes, but that's how I cope with bad news, I deny for longer than most. I think it's odd how bad news about someone you stopped thinking about along time ago can hit you. My Grandfather died a couple weeks ago and I didn't cry at his funeral, yet somehow I find myself welling up every time I read someone's tribute to Kirby.

To a certain extent we're all Pavlov's dog when it comes to various things. It's hard to describe how many childhood thoughts and feelings, some of them completely unrelated, come back to me when connected with Kirby. For me nothing quite stirs up emotions and memories of childhood quite like hearing "Kiiiirrrrrrbeeeeeeeeee Puck-ett." Somehow I hear those words, said in that fashion, and I'm 10 years old, in the dome, watching my hero come to the plate when we need him the most. "I know he's going to come through," I'd say to myself. It never mattered to me if the Twins were down 7 with 2 outs to go in the game and the 5th batter in the order was up. "If they can just get to Kirby", I'd think.

In reality, one of three things would happen:
1) Someone would get out before Kirby would get up, in my mind this person always lost the game.
2) Kirby wouldn't in fact win the game.
3) By some miracle Kirby would win the game.
The latter happened way less frequently then the other two, but that never deterred my feelings. "If they can find a way to get to Kirby, it's in the bag" (Even ignoring situations like above where more likely than not Kirby was one of the 2 outs.) Also as far as I was concerned your homer better be headed into the upper deck, or else three-four was taking it away from you.

I think the thought that haunts me the most in all of this is the way I took him for granted. (Although I suppose that's the way anyone feels looking back on another's life in hindsight.) Although I was always a Twins fan, as a kid I collected Ken Griffey Jr cards. I had a Griffey t-shirt. I had a Griffey and Frank Thomas poster on my wall. Sure Puckett was always well represented in any facet, but not as much, and not as purposefully. If you would have asked me at the time who was my favorite player I would have answered "Griffey."

Looking back, it's like in one of those 7 million "teen" movies where a guy and girl are best friends. The whole plot revolves around one or the other looking for the perfect significant other. The friend not 'searching' for love spends the entirety of the movie pining for their best friend. Without fail, something happens that makes the looky loo realize they had been with the perfect person all along. That's kind of what this situation feels like to me. I think to myself, "Of course Kirby was your favorite, who were you kidding?" I saw Kirby all the time, I knew he was great to the fans and universally loved. I saw Griffey once (and I wore my Seattle/Griffey shirt to the dome, and he waved to me) he was the exotic "Superstar." He was "unknown" and exciting, and on Sportcenter every night.

I can't help but feel a lot like someone looking back over failed relationships and thinking, "Why the hell did I go out with them?" Kirby never failed me. I can't picture one thing, other than wave to me and shatter his wrist into a wall, that Griffey has ever done. I can picture tons of images of Kirby, a great deal of which were in person. I know now who I should have 'been with', and if you're reading over my shoulder Kirby, I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I wish I could have a couple more games. I wish I knew I should've been soaking it all in a little more.

I think the word 'hero' is thrown around entirely too much, and is outright ludicrous in any sports settings. However, I'm at a loss to find any other adjectives to so aptly summarize what Kirby meant to a lot of people, especially to my generation of Twins fans. Truly, Kirby was, and still remains, THE Twins to many 20 somethings Twins fans.

It seems bizarre, and somewhat embarassing, ending by saying "He will be missed," but meaning it in a, "I will miss him" sense, rather than the 'blanket statement' that is used all the time. I say that because it's bizarre to think I can miss someone whom up until 2 days ago could have been a Brain Surgeon in Alaska for all I knew. Also, I never knew him personally to begin with. To my dismay I've come to find it'd be hard to miss a person more.
scott.jpgScott - 6225 Posts
03/07/2006 @ 11:54:08 PM
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I think it is safe to say that Kirby Pucket is to the Twins and Minnesota what Brett Favre is to Wisconsin, and I mean that in a good way. And in many ways this is very similar to what happened for the Packer fans when Reggie White died. While White only played in Green bay for about 6 years, Kirby Pucket did for the Twins for his entire career what Favre did for the Packers. He definitely was a special player.
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - I believe virtually everything I read.
03/08/2006 @ 01:30:54 PM
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There is a service Sunday at 7 at the Dome. Is anyone interested? Gates open at 6, not sure what time we'd need to get there to get it.

Link here
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