Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirrrrrrbbbbyyyy Puckkkketttt!!!!! 

For a recently-revived Diamondbacks blog, I had been writing comparatively little about the Diamondbacks. I had intended to tip the scales a bit today, writing about Counsell's shoulder or perhaps Chad Tracy's All-Star chances.

But then I picked up the paper this morning, read the headline(s) about Kirby Puckett's death from stroke-related complications, and decided that could wait another day or two.

I feel like a big Twins fan, but I realized today that I probably lived in Minnesota for only a month or two during Puckett's heyday, having moved in the summer of 1994, just after he made it to the Show. I lived in Minnesota during the twilight of his career as well (if one can call it a "twilight" -- it was pretty quick), but it was what he did while I was nowhere near the state that made him one of my favorite players. (It was in that twilight that I knew someone whose first name was Kirby and whose last name had two syllables. The person was constantly referred to in deep tones as "Kirrrrbbbyyyyy {bum-bum}." OK, it was funnier if you were there.)

I remember the excitement I felt over the 1987 World Series victory. I remember the excitement of the 1991 World Series, which for sheer excitement and tension was barely matched in my lifetime before or since. And all that time I remember Kirby's infectious smile and enthusiasm.

There are very few people who gave (or give) off the impression that their employment or vocation is what they were meant to do and that there was nothing else they'd rather be doing. Kirby Puckett gave everyone that impression.

I've long since given up any illusions I may have held about athletes' larger-than-life (or better-than-life) abilities. Even so, Puckett's off-the-field issues, especially after his retirement, were unpleasant for me to read about, if only because they so contradicted his demeanor on the field. But in the end, I'm gonna remember the stuff on the field.

Reading the obituary on the StarTribune's website today, I was struck by the comment he made at his 1996 press conference at which he announced his retirement -- "Tomorrow is not promised to any of us." As I think about my own role as father and fan and about other events in my life that I'm not going to get into here, those words are a timely reminder.

Enjoy the games of baseball today, regardless of whether they're in downtown Phoenix or in your front yard.

My sympathies to Puckett's family and friends.

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