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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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When Kirby Ruled My World
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirby Puckett
1960-2006

Last night’s news that the great Kirby Puckett had passed away didn’t come as a shock to me. For some reason I knew that when he had is stroke on Sunday the end was near. Knowing, however, doesn’t make it any easier. Everyone has sports heroes growing up, and despite being a die-hard Mets fan I was also a short chubby kid and I connected with no athlete more than Kirby Puckett. Kirby was it for me.

I can’t name the exact day Kirby became the center of my childhood world, in actuality it probably happened more over time than all at once. It started with a poster or two, a pennant, then the card collecting came. Every Sunday there was a baseball card show either at the Knights of Columbus in Milford, or the Ramada Inn in Stratford my Dad would hop in the car and take me and we’d go to every table looking for more Kirby Puckett cards that I didn’t have. I think my collection of cards was up to around 150 before it became too taxing a task with card companies releasing multiple sets each year. Those baseball card shows were some of the greatest moments of my childhood.

The Kirby fanaticism didn’t stop there, though. Once I was old enough to know how to amuse myself for long periods of time (basically once I knew to get out of the way when people were working), and after a little bit of begging a pleading, my Dad started taking me on some of his shorter business trips during the summer. Why was I begging and pleading? Well, when I was younger my Dad would travel to, yup, you guessed it, Minnesota, on a fairly regular basis. Finally I made my way there with him and got to see Kirby play in person. It was awesome. Just hearing the Twins announcer boom “Now batting, number thirty four, Kirbyyyyyyyyyyyyy Puckett” still gives me a slight chill.

Lots of people will be eulogizing today about Kirby’s magnificent game six of the 1991 World Series, seriously one of the greatest individual efforts in the history of professional sports (which was the followed by Jack Morris’ equally impressive game seven, possibly the greatest game ever pitched). And while Kirby’s feats on the field were impressive, it’s the indelible mark he put on my childhood that I will always remember. Kirby’s smile was an infectious one, and whenever I see an image of him I smile. It’s really not even a conscious choice, I have to. Kirby Puckett was my childhood. The all-star that was everybody’s friend was the perfect player, the perfect teammate and the perfect hero. They don’t make ‘em like Kirby anymore and maybe that’s the point in all this. Kirby Puckett was the second youngest hall of fame player to pass away, only Lou Gehrig died younger and he died of a disease so rare they named it after him, but in a world where guys like Terrell Ownes, Ron Artest and Barry Bond dominate the headlines and people’s minds, maybe God wanted to take a great guy like Kirby off the earth so as not to remind us how good an athlete can really be.
posted by Adam Bernard @ 9:46 AM  
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