Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Finding What I Lost

I was living in Manhattan when Kirby Puckett died on March 6, 2006. And I remember the first time I ran into a Minnesotan after that. It was obvious--to both of us.

"Oh Kirby! People don't understand..."

I was born and raised in Minneapolis in 1985. The Twins winning the World Series in '87 and '91--and more importantly, Kirby Puckett--comprise many of the first and favorite memories. Kirby Puckett was beloved as he is by Minnesotans long before 1991. That's part of what made his performance so special.

I can specifically remember running to my Dad's dressing room the morning after game 6. I remember my Dad telling me, excitedly, while he tied his tie and such, what Kirby Puckett had done. He told me if the Twins won the World Series that night, he would buy us hats. And he did.

Seven years ago I sat down at my computer in my little shared studio in soho Manhattan. It was a Sunday. I saw a news headline for "Baseball HOFer Suffers Massive Stroke". I was curious. I clicked. I felt like I got socked in the stomach.

I wore my baby-blue Kirby Puckett jersey (the most expensive piece of clothing I owned at the time) to school and work Monday. Kirby was taken off life support Monday night. So of course I never took the jersey off.

Kirby's passing was a front page headline by Tuesday. Took a whole subway sized NY Post cover. I remember walking into work that morning, after seeing the NY Post newspapers on the subway, and my loud-mouth supervisor asking, "Hey! Did you just buy that jersey because he died?"

This was 8:30 am in the morning. In the middle of Manhattan. In 2006. And I was wearing a Hall of Fame replica Minnesota Twins Kirby Puckett jersey--that had been wearing for two days.

I kind of stood there and stared at her for a moment. Then I replied.

"No. Kirby Puckett was my hero."

Rest in Peace
Kirby Puckett

Please add your own thoughts and memories of KIRBBBBBBBBBBBBBYY PUCKETT!!

1 comment:

  1. When Kirby came on the scene in 1984 I was a year out of college and waiting to join the Peace Corps.

    My grandpa made a cassette at my good bye party in July, which I memorized after 2 years. Toward the end of the cassette, when just my drunk friend were left at the party, my buddy mumbled: "Not sure if you heard, but Kirby Puckett hit the winning home run, and the Twins are world champs now."

    Fast forward to 1987 and I was living with my girlfriend in the East Bay when my buddy's words came true. We always sat behind Kirby in the Coliseum bleachers. No matter how hard we yelled he would not turn around and acknowledge us.

    My wife-to-be and I were just starting out (i.e. poor). I listened to the playoffs on the radio. I watched the World Series quietly in East Bay bars.

    1991 was the year my first kid was born. I watched that World Series in San Francisco, where we had moved.

    I moved my family back in 1992 and - no lie - the first game I watched live in the Dome as a returned Minnesotan was the Eric Fox game. (Maybe I'm a jinx.)

    I remember my softball team gathered around when Kirby announced his retirement.

    What I loved about Kirby was his joy for playing. He seemed inevitably to come up with the timely hit or the well-timed quote.

    He has an amazing list of successes and achievements. With him came the Twin Cities their first championships in my memory.

    He remembered his beginnings, and he knew the value of hard work and how lucky he was to play this great game for a living. He knew what baseball was - competition, strategy, but also entertainment and relief from everyday drudgery. As he said, he loved the game.

    I feel like young people can't even imagine how popular he was or how much different his teams feel than the Twins of this century.

    Go check out the video from the 1987 Dome celebration after the return from Detroit if you want to catch the feeling, kids: Kirby is announced at about the 7:20 mark:

    Obviously he was fairly lost after it all ended - so quickly. He got fat; he messed up. I can't help but think he was embarrassed when his failures were paraded in public by Frank Deford and others.

    He was my age. He came and went much to fast. I can't believe it's been 7 years without him. Miss you Kirby.