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12 Days of Twinsmas: #1 Kirby Puckett


David Youngs
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From his World Series heroics to jubilant personality, Kirby Puckett is regarded by most as the greatest player to ever don a Twins uniform. 

As a 1997 baby I never had the chance to watch Kirby Puckett play in person. Yet his 1991 game six catch and walk off homer are by far the most watched pieces of baseball content that will ever grace my life. 

Thirty years doesn't diminish the goosebumps that prevail when watching two of the most prolific moments in Twins (and baseball) history. 

Those moments present Kirby not as a player, but an essence of glory and an overarching sense of a legend that is cemented in history. 

But as a player, he was pretty damn good too. 

 One can point to any spot on Puckett's 12 year MLB career stat line and find talking points that are pretty impressive. The tip of the iceberg is Puck's .318 career batting average and 51.2 WAR coupled with six gold gloves, a batting title, and two shiny rings. Not to mention, the man made the All-star game in ten of his 12 seasons and was named the MVP of the '93 Mid-summer Classic. 

That's all great, but the tip of an iceberg fails to share the entire story of the mass. Puck was an impact player right out the gate. His 1984 rookie season consisted of a .296 batting average, 165 hits (he would go on to lead the league in this category four times), and only 69 strikeouts in 583 plate appearances. The man knew how to get on base! Kirby finished the season third in the vote tally for American League Rookie of the Year behind the Seattle duo of Alvin Davis and Mark Langston (Puckett's career turned out to be a bit more fruitful).

It didn't take long for Puckett's name to enter the MVP conversation. He first received votes in 1985 and would go on to receive them in eight of his remaining ten seasons. Funny enough, he never actually won the award.

Yet it isn't MVP votes that win titles. That comes from consistency, availability, and drive. Those three things were arguably Kirby's biggest contributions to the Twins. 

Need a break from you in-laws over the holidays? Spend 30 minutes on Puckett's Baseball Reference page to brighten the mood. The consistency is unbelievable. Puck never had a season with a batting average that dipped below .280. His lowest was a .288 average in that 1985 season, still knocking 199 hits in a league-leading 691 at-bats. 

Puck could perform because he was practically always available. Seldom was it that Kirby played in under 150 games in a season. His lowest was 108 in 1994 due to the MLB lockout. 

And while all that is great, Twins fans will remember Puckett for being the heart and soul of the organization in some of it's brightest days. The Twins were graced with some incredible players like Hrbek, Viola, Aguilera, and Gladden, but it's safe to say that Kirby was the backbone of the Twins' glory days. 

Puckett's heroics in game six of the 1991 World Series must be associated with his leadership and words of inspiration before the game. With their backs against the wall after losing three in a row (including an absolute whooping in game five) Kirby encouraged his team to 'jump on his back.'

Something must have worked. Kirby delivered, the Twins won, and the 1991 World Series will forever be one of the greatest championships ever played in sport. 

And on a personal level, the legacy of Puck has always been special to me. As a chubby kid with little self-confidence, my mother would read me his children's book before tough days at school, sporting events, and difficult situations. Kirby Puckett: Be the Best You Can Be; it still sits on my television stand as a small reminder of self-love and inspiration. 

Kirby wasn't perfect, none of us are. Yet the impact that he had and still has on baseball and the Minnesota Twins organization is unprecedented. There are few organizations in sports that have what Kirby Puckett and the Minnesota Twins have/had.

Everyone has their favorite Puck memory. Take some time to think of yours. Hopefully it brings a smile to your face on this Christmas Day.

Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here:
#12 - Torii Hunter
#11 - Chuck Knoblauch
#10 - Jim Kaat
#9 - Frank Viola
#8 - Kent Hrbek
#7 - Tony Oliva
#6 - Johan Santana
#5 - Bert Blyleven
#4 - Joe Mauer
#3 - Harmon Killebrew
#2 - Rod Carew
#1 - Kirby Puckett 


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Being 15 years old in 1987 and 19 in 1991, Kirby couldn't have made a bigger impression on me as a baseball crazed teenager. I'd give tens of thousands of dollars today to go back in time to that Metrodome and hear the "Kirbeeeeee Puckett" on the PA and see those championship teams again. 

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6 hours ago, David Youngs said:

From his World Series heroics to jubilant personality, Kirby Puckett is regarded by most as the greatest player to ever don a Twins uniform. 

 

Kirby is my all-time favorite baseball player. But I do not regard him as the greatest player to ever play for the Twins and I highly doubt that most do.

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9 minutes ago, Nine of twelve said:

Kirby is my all-time favorite baseball player. But I do not regard him as the greatest player to ever play for the Twins and I highly doubt that most do.

In terms of sheer production I would put Killebrew, Carew, and maybe Mauer ahead of Puckett. But in terms of "greatness" I would take playoff performance and big moments into consideration as well. It is similar to how Tom Brady may not be as talented as other QB's like Aaron Rodgers but he is greater because he has more big moments and accolades. Puckett led the Twins to two World Series titles and that should be heavily considered in "greatness"

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Due to my age, Carew was my first favorite Twin.  He got me interested in baseball at a fairly early age.

Then Kirby came along and my love of baseball exploded.  I remember being in college when he came up. He had 4 hits in his first game against the Angels on the West Coast.  Reggie Jackson called him "another slap hitter".  Obviously he became much more than that.  I liked Kirby so much that I ended up with a massive Kirby baseball card collection - nearly a thousand different cards at one point.

I was heartbroken when Kirby had to retire too soon and again when he passed way too soon.

For all the heartbreak that Minnesota sports fans have had to endure over the years, Kirby helped deliver the greatest highs.  He was, in my mind, the greatest professional athlete to don a Minnesota uniform.

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15 hours ago, Nine of twelve said:

Kirby is my all-time favorite baseball player. But I do not regard him as the greatest player to ever play for the Twins and I highly doubt that most do.

Maybe if you only go by the book and focus on longevity. Again, just maybe. I will always take Kirby as the #1 greatest Twins player ever along with the two World Series championships. 

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As a 1997 baby I never had the chance to watch Kirby Puckett play in person. 

 

Got my first chuckle of the day.  Then got a little depressed thinking of how old it made me feel.  Then how lucky I felt having been able to see Harmon play, and Tony O' play, and Carew play, and Herbie, and Sweet Music, Johann, and Roy, and Kirby, and Joe and even Laudner, Larkin, Gladden, Bostock, and all the others.  Gotta say, I've had a good Twins life.  Thanks for the articles.

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Will always remember going to that spring training game with my son and his friend who were both in their early teens.  Was puzzling when it was announced that Kirby was a scratch.  Little did we know that the game we saw the day before was his last. 

His career, like his life, ended way too early.  

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7 hours ago, roger said:

His career, like his life, ended way too early.  

As we all know, Kirby had several health and other personal problems between the end of his playing career and the end of his life. In spite of his generally very positive public persona the unexpected premature end to his career had to have been devastating to him on a personal level, especially considering the self-blame that must have resulted from knowing his loss of vision would have been prevented by having a routine eye exam done that off-season. I strongly believe he would still be alive today if he had been able to continue his career until retiring on his own terms.

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Fun memories.  

I like Harmon #1, Kirby #2, and Rod #3.  But, that is personal.  I cannot fault your order.

Again it is personal but I would remove Knobloch and add Morneau to my list. 

After his concussion, he was not able to return to the same level.  I would project his dominance in placing him on my list.

I have had two concussions in my life, in both instances I only was hospitalized overnight, but my family has described how disconnected I was during my outage.  Some funny remarks they tell me I made to the doctor..  With my experiences, I do not penalize Morneau 

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