Team: Minnesota Twins, 1984-1995
A loyal Twins outfielder and beloved by
the local fans, Kirby Puckett helped the
Twins become the first team in AL
history to draw three million fans.
Puckett's ascent to the majors, combined with those of teammates Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Tom Brunansky, catapulted Minnesota into contention after more than a decade as a league doormat. Known for his all-out baserunning, explosive bat, affable demeanor, and acrobatic catches in center field, the 5' 8" Puckett became one of the most well known athletes in sports. In 1988, he helped the Twins become the first team in AL history to draw three million fans.
When he arrived in the majors, "Kirrr-bee" was a speedy .300 hitter, but he filled out his game in 1986 by discovering a power stroke. After going homerless in 1984, he clubbed 31 in '86 and finished sixth in league MVP voting. Puckett also made his first of 10 straight All-Star appearances that year.
In 1987, the Twins won their first pennant since 1965, with Puckett (third in MVP voting) sparking the club. He paced the AL in hits for the first of three straight seasons, adding a .332 average with 28 homers and snaring his second of six Gold Glove Awards. In the 1987 World Series, Kirby batted .357 as the Twins defeated St. Louis in seven games.
Puckett would help Minnesota win another World Championship in 1991, capturing the AL batting crown with a .339 mark. He batted .429 in the AL Championship Series and clubbed a dramatic 11th-inning, game-winning homer in Game 6 of the World Series off Atlanta's Charlie Leibrandt. The rotund outfielder rounding the bases after his homer, fist in the air, is a lasting image to Twins fans.
Kirby's club soon returned to the doldrums. However, as the team deteriorated and other Minnesota players jumped ship, Puckett remained loyal to the Twin Cities -- which endeared him even more to local fans.
In strike-shortened 1994, Puckett led the AL with 112 RBI in just 108 games. The following year, he hit over .300 for the eighth time. However, on September 28, 1995, Cleveland's Dennis Martinez accidentally drilled Puckett in the face with a pitch. The injury caused irreversible damage to his right eye, forcing him to the sidelines permanently.
Puckett retired gracefully to a front-office job with 2,304 lifetime hits. Though considered a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, Kirby gained admission in 2001. His great character and endearing personality likely swayed the voters.
Here are Kirby Puckett's major league totals:
|BA||G ||AB||R||H||2B ||3B||HR ||RBI ||SB |
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