3.06.2006

Kirby Puckett


So, Kirby Puckett died, and I'm having a hard time with it.

It doesn't really makes sense. Like a lot of people my age, I was a big Kirby Puckett fan. But still, I didn't know the man personally or anything. So why does it affect me for more than an hour? I'm trying to figure it out.

First of all, I know of no baseball fan that didn't love Kirby. Take a popular player today, like Barry Bonds or Derek Jeter. Some people love them. Some people despise them. Not so with Kirby. Everybody loved Kirby. He was everyone's "favorite player who is not on my favorite team". He had so much positivity, and his big ass smile betrayed any attempts to conceal it.

He was built like a bowling ball, but hit like a wrecking ball, just like a poster he inspired. Oh, and the defense! Jumping up the Hefty Bag wall of the Met to snare a ball occured so many times it became rote. What you say? Kirby just robbed a home run? Yawn. What else is new?

He was the heart and soul of gritty Twins club that won two World Series against teams with more talent and less heart. If my bonds to the San Diego Padres and Tony Gwynn had not already been formed, there is an excellent chance I would have become a Twins fan, based solely on my love of Kirby Puckett. So from a purely baseball perspective, there are a lot of reasons to mourn the loss of Kirby.

But I think it goes deeper than that. And for that reason, let us turn to that bellwether of American cinema, City Slickers:

"Whenever my father and I couldn't talk about anything else, we could always talk about baseball."

Let me be clear: Me and my dad had a great relationship. There were no problems. But because of the nature of our household, a lot of things that needed to be said never got said. Hopefully, I conveyed to my father how much he meant to me and how much I respected him, but I could never just come out and say it. It was too awkward and in my immaturity I would have been embarrassed. Always about me, isn't it? Since the lines of communication never ran too deeply, sports in general, and baseball particularly, is how we communicated. We'd talk baseball for hours. We'd make the occasional trip to San Francisco to see his Giants or to Anaheim so I could see Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew, who was my favorite pre-Tony Gwynn player. Bottom line, some of my best memories with my dad concerned baseball. And my dad, too, loved Kirby Puckett. And now they are both gone.

I am not prone too being overly emotional. In fact I am probably not emotional enough (at least that's what the ex's keep saying). I keep a lot in, so when I found out about Kirby, I think I tied it up with my dad, and it gave me an excuse to release some of the emotional buildup regarding not just my dad, but everyone else close to me I have lost. In it's own way, it's kind of lethargic. It's too bad it takes death to make it happen.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. I mean, I'll probably be fine tomorrow. Maybe I'm just sad that I'm getting older, and this is the first instance of one of my personal baseball heroes dying, which forces me to deal with my own mortality. Maybe it reminds me when my life was much less complicated, and I actually had the time to pour over statistics, sort baseball cards all day, play wiffle ball, and create various baseball games involving dice and a scorecard. Ah, youth!

I don't know.

All I do know is that I'm really sad that Kirby Puckett is gone.
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