Jim Kaat and Howard Sinker discuss Kirby Puckett's baseball career

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Jim Kaat, former Twins broadcaster, and Howard Sinker, MPR sports analyst, discuss Baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett featuring his retirement statement and reports on his election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

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(00:00:26) And good morning. Welcome to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten glad you could join us. It was former tough guy baseball manager Leo durocher who won snarled nice guys finish last. Well the late mr. Durocher never had a chance to meet Kirby Puckett Kirby Pucket Minnesota's most popular athlete ever and one of the most popular baseball players in the history of the game was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday in the entire history of baseball. There are only 250 1 players have been voted to the Hall of Fame and Yesterday only 34 had been elected the first year that they were eligible. Now, there are 36 yesterday Kirby Puckett was elected in his very first year and making the day even more memorable for Minnesota sports fans. He was joined by another first ballot inductee Dave Winfield who grew up on the playgrounds of st. Paul start at the University of Minnesota and went on play 22 Seasons with six teams, including two years with Kirby and the Minnesota Twins an amazing accomplishment for both men no doubt about it. But yesterday at the Metrodome, the biggest celebration was for Kirby Puckett and why not he played his whole career with the twins and he has come to symbolize all that is good about sports today on midday sports analyst and former baseball writer Howard sinkers joined us to talk about Kirby Puckett. We'll also be hearing from Tom Kelly and Jim kaat and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and will also be opening the phone lines for your comments during this hour, but first of all, Minnesota public radio's William, And has a report on yesterday's press conference at the Dome Kirby Pucket says he was only five years old when he started wandering out to the playgrounds of Chicago southside to play ball with some of his eight older siblings by the time he finished high school. He was the best player around but bucket says it's not so surprising that no Pro Scouts were on hand to offer him a contract. I (00:02:18) don't blame anybody for that because I play ball. It came at high school. It's all black and it's raining harder to get or Chicago. I can't blame Scouts for not coming to watch us play if they came in they wouldn't have got out. That's the honest-to-god (00:02:32) truth. So fuck it took a job at an automobile Factory but is playing an amateur summer league was noticed and led to a scholarship offer. He started Triton Junior College was drafted by the Twins and broke into the big leagues at the start of the 1984 season, just two years earlier. The twins had endured what remains their worst season ever but things were starting to look up and in Pucketts third season the twins brought Minnesota its first World Series Championship pocket says, he feels fortunate to have started his career with that group of players. (00:03:00) Came in Haiti for I had the likes of can her back Tim law. No Tamra Nancy Frank Viola Gary guy Eddie, we had here what you call a bunch of Gamers guys before I got here like they lost a hundred games. I mean so they were tired of being beat and I was just a little piece of the puzzle and I knew that my job when I came in 1984 was to get on base and set the table for them big (00:03:21) guys after a couple of Seasons twins batting coach. Tony Oliva helped pocket modify his batting stance which led him to hit more home runs and prompted the team to move him in the batting order from first to third. We're four years. He hit in front of her back Rebecca says as great a player as Puckett was his strongest memories are of Kirby off the field as a combination Class Clown and team leader. (00:03:42) Sure. I remember him as being a great player and a great hitter and stood behind him on the on Deck Circle, you know and watched him hit and walk up to the on dare walk up to the plate to catch we go how the hell'd he hit that one, you know stuff like that. I remember more walk in the club house and seeing her smile and laugh and Make you want to be there at the (00:04:01) Ballpark bucket has won several awards for his community service and twins president. Jerry Bell says his influence on those around him is part of what distinguishes pocket among great ballplayers. A (00:04:11) lot of players are good on the field. But but he extended that to his whole team with with setting examples and not only in park play baseball, but how to conduct yourself with fans and kids and the press and everyone (00:04:27) else after 12 Seasons Pucketts playing career was ended when he developed glaucoma that blocked the vision in his right eye. There was some question about whether his career would be deemed long enough for Hall of Fame voters to elect him on the first ballot, but pocket was named on 82 percent of the votes cast bucket says, he feels no anger about the eye disease that shortened his career (00:04:47) people want to talk about me having a my career after 12 years and I'll have a say it was I just thank God he let me play that (00:04:52) long but it will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York in August. I'm William. Wilcoxon, Minnesota Public Radio. Yesterday's Press Conference was held in what Kirby has called the room of Gloom the room where players have held press conferences announcing their retirements. It was in that room where Kirby Puckett announced his retirement back on July 12 1996. Apparently, there wasn't a dry eye in the house at the time. Here's part of what Kirby Puckett had to say on that occasion for me. (00:05:24) Kid growing up in Chicago coming out of bad neighborhood never the people thought I'd never do anything. And here I am sitting in front of you guys and only sad thing that I only regret I have about this game at all is that I know I could have done so much better if I could have played. But then again that's 2020 something else could have happened. I mean, who knows but I think that anybody who knows me including my teammates know that every time I put the uniform on. That I laugh and joke with the opposition, but when it was time to get it on. I got it on and I gave it everything I had. And that's what I try to tell our young guys. Here's to enjoy life. I mean every day you don't get four hits every day. No, maybe Nabi, you know, maybe Molly, you know, it's a couple guys get four hits every day. But just because you don't get a hit don't mean you can't make a good defensive play or run the bases good or do whatever. Like to thank called Pollard and Jerry Bell and everybody for giving me the opportunity to wear this uniform that I have on just like in her back only one uniform and I'm proud to say that I'm a Minnesota twin. You know, how some people say they bleed Yankee Pinstripes or the Dodger blue. Well, whatever you want to call this. I want one uniform in my career. And I'm proud to say that it's a tough day for me because I can't see it in a lot of you and said I'm not going to miss the game because I am I missed it every since March 28th when I haven't been able to perform. Well, I mean, it's been nice for me. I've been a Minnesota twin for this is my 13th year and I'm proud to say that I've played with with a lot of pride a lot of class and integrity when I put the uniform on and that's the part of mr. Most the camaraderie with my teammates and coming in stirring up trouble. My wife really going to give me I can't stir no trouble up at home because my kids are against me, but it's gonna be alright. I'm a Mystique a on me. It's all you guys, but I'm not going anywhere. I'll be here, but I just won't be putting this on anymore. Just the last time you see Kirby Pucket in the Minnesota Twins uniform. And I just want to tell you I love you all so much. And I want to tell all you press people. Thank you very much for being behind me and putting all those good things about me and all those bad things sometimes too, but I don't mind the criticism because you can't take the heat then get out of the kitchen and I'm here to tell you. I stayed in the kitchen all the time because I know how to handle it. I'm not afraid to fail and I've always throw myself out there no matter what It's like I did in game 6 was struggling I told you guys to jump on we jumped on and we went. But I've never been afraid to fail. And it's kind of like Ozzie Smith said it's time for another Another Part baseball has been a great part of my life ever since I was 5 years old. I'm 35 years old sitting in front of you now and I'll play baseball ever since I've known for 30 years has been a great part of my life. It really has. But now it's time to close the chapter on this book and baseball and going with the part 2 of my life. It's going to be all right Curry Puck is going to be all right. Don't worry about me. I'll show up and I'm gonna have fun. I'm going to have a smile on my face. The only thing is I won't have this uniform or but you guys can have the memories of what I did when I did have it on. And that's what I want my young teammates to know right now is when you put the uniform on you put it on and you play with with pride and integrity what it can hurt back plays with it play with it and Paul Molitor and Navi and all you guys play with it. Just don't take it for granted because you never know tomorrow's not promised to any of us. Anything could happen to any of us whether we reporters or whatever we may be anything can happen. So enjoy yourself and I love you all. Thank you (00:09:00) very much. That was a Kirby Puckett announcing his retirement from baseball back on July 12 1996. Sad day in Minnesota sports history, but yesterday was a great day in sports history Kirby Puckett is now heading to the Hall of Fame and sports analyst Star Tribune State News editor and former baseball writer Howard Sinker has joined us to talk about Kirby Pucket in his career. We also invite you to join our conversation Kirby Puckett is not only the most popular athlete in Minnesota History. He has been likened by some otherwise sober observers is one of the most influential and popular minnesotans of any elk right up there with people like Hubert Humphrey. What would what do you think makes Kirby so special to so many minnesotans love to have you join our conversation. Give us a call here, six five. One two, two seven six thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight will get to your calls. We'll get to our conversation with Howard in just a moment, but right Now joining us is the first Minnesota twin to make the Hall of Fame Harmon Killebrew one of the greatest home run hitters in baseball history and probably the only twin to rival Kirby Puckett for the affection of Minnesota fans Harmon Killebrew is traveling the state today as part of the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan Harmon Killebrew. Thank you so much for joining us today. It's a real pleasure to talk with you. (00:10:24) Thank you Gary. It's nice to be with you on such a kind of a Blustery Day up here where we are, but great day for the Minnesota (00:10:31) Twins Thief River Falls, correct? That's correct. Say could you tell us Harmon from your perspective? What's it like to get elected to the Hall of (00:10:41) Fame? Well, it's a difficult thing to explain when I got the call from Jack Lang was the President of the baseball writers association. He said your life will never be the same and II really didn't register with me at that time exactly what he meant and I can honestly tell you now that he was right that people seem to look at you with with a different eye when you have that Hof behind your name, and I know it's not registering with Kirby or the day with you right now, but certainly later on they'll find out exactly what that's all (00:11:21) about. Some people argue. The the Hall of Fame has been diluted a little bit over time. That's some kind of marginal players have been inducted you would not be among them. I might add but even against the toughest standard would Kirby and Dave Winfield for that matter qualify and your (00:11:39) mind. Well, I was I was a little surprised frankly to tell you the truth at curbing went in on the first vote. I'm delighted that it happened but Not sure what the writers might do and certainly with over the 3000 hits and the locker area at another statistic to the ads. But when you look at Kirby and take a third twin player Tony Oliva and Tony has not made it to the hall of fame you wander and so it was it was great to seek to be go in on the first ballot (00:12:16) Harmon Killebrew. I'm going to let you go because your phone is breaking up appreciate your joining (00:12:21) us. Thanks very much (00:12:24) put twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew joining us on the road near Thief River Falls where he is participating in the annual Twins Winter Caravan again, we're talking this our about Kirby Pucket and his induction into the Hall of Fame. Love to have you join our conversation here. If you've got some thoughts on why you believe Kirby Puckett has been such an important part of Minnesota History specially Sports history. Scoffs 6512276 thousand or 1-800 to for to to 828 Howard Sinker. Thanks for joining us this morning. You feeling a little better. You were under the weather. I understand. (00:13:02) Well, let's see. I think I can get us through the hour and it went and what state I'm not sure you always you (00:13:10) always do well Howard where you were as surprised as Harmon Killebrew was that Kirby made it on the first ballot. (00:13:18) No, I really don't think so. A lot of people draw the similarity between or try to draw the similarity between Pucketts career being shortened and Tony Oliva has shortened career. The thing with Oliva is he played the last two or three years that he played he was really, you know, just a shadow of the guy who is getting Hall of Fame votes because of his knee problems. His statistics really tailed off. If you look at the pockets last two seasons with the with the twins in 1994 1995, he hit about 3:15 both of those Seasons. He had 20 or more home runs. He played very very well right up until the end and when you get into all of the secondary criteria, you know, what did he do for the game, you know all the things that go a little bit further than just being a spectacular player. This is a guy one of the few guys who scores in a plus and all of those (00:14:19) categories. I was going to say we were looking through some old clips focused primarily on when he announced his retirement and came across a very moving article that you wrote about Kirby Pucket and his place in Minnesota sports history care to share a little bit of that with (00:14:39) us. Well, it makes me feel very old to be honest with you because he's the first person elected to the Hall of Fame whose career as a baseball as a major Leaguer started after My career as a writer did so I've feeling I'm feeling old by X number of years today. He just he just went I just have he's one of those few guys who you really have nothing but good memories about and we used to go through periods where he would say. I've never talking to you again and it would last all of about 18 minutes and it was always delivered with you know with his attempt at being somewhat ornery and I think once we made it about 25 minutes, but he was just a was fun to watch he was fun to talk to and unlike unlike the the best players on the other franchises in town. This is a guy who brought a world championship to Minnesota who helped the played a significant role without Puckett. There's no 1987 and 1991 World Series, Kevin. It has done wonderful things for the Timberwolves, but they haven't gotten out of the first round of the playoffs and we've called a moratorium on talking about the Vikings, right? Whoo. Yeah, you know, so I mean it just and every on every level you can you can imagine this is a guy who's a Hall of Famer. I mean, this isn't Petros here, you know the controversy. I mean the the first ballot controversy, it's it's an interesting one, but I think by any standard he belonged (00:16:23) Katie is on the line from children's heart linked with some comments about Kirby Pucket and why minnesotans are so taken with him caite. Thank you for joining us. What what you (00:16:34) thought? Yeah. Hi. Well, I think there's a lot of reasons that Kirby is so special to Minnesota, but I think one of the big things is not only what he's done on the field, but so much of what he's done off the field Kirby and Tanya pocket have been Fantastic supporters of children's Heart Link an international charity and Minneapolis helping kids with heart disease around the world and for the past 10 years. They've hosted the annual Kirby Puckett 8-ball Invitational to benefit children's Heart Link. It's a fantastic event and they've helped raise over three million dollars so far and they haven't just lend their name to the charity, but they've truly believe in what we do and are very involved with the day-to-day planning of the event and really their enthusiasm and dedication that you see so much of on the field for Kirby has spilled over into this event and it's for charity and it's just been such a fortunate thing for children's Heart Link and certainly plans are well underway for this year's event, which as of yesterday has become a hall-of-fame celebration which were very excited about and it will take place on Saturday November 17th. So we have much to be thankful for the pockets for as to a lot of people in Minnesota. Like they're terrific people to have here (00:17:44) Katie. Have you seen Kirby interacting? With children much, I would imagine you would and your role. (00:17:50) Yes. I have all of the children that we treat right now are treated abroad in different countries, but we have brought a couple of those children who've received heart surgery through children's Heart Link to his annual 8-ball Invitational over the past few years and he treats them like his own kids practically. He's just thrilled and has I've seen tears in his eyes when he spent around those kids who have come up to him on stage and said, you know, thank you Kirby for saving my life because that's what he's helped helping to do and he talks about some of those moments over and over again and means a lot to him and it means a lot to these kids in different countries who don't even know that he's a famous baseball player. They just know that he is somebody who's helping raise money to help save more (00:18:32) kids. Thanks Katie. Appreciate your call. Sure. Thank you Howard. Are you had a chance to watch Kirby interact with children over the years? What do you suppose? I mean they seem to love him every but all the kids loved him (00:18:43) children or Sports writers. Ciao, either. I've never met anyone who had a bad experience with him. I've never heard from anyone. I mean sure there were times when he wanted some privacy or he would he would duck out of something a little early or not, you know not be somewhere from beginning to end but he's did so much more so much more than most players and there's so much demand. My son went to the same schools his daughter for a while and he used to tease me. I'd see him there and he'd say, how come you never talk to me here and I would just say hey, you know, you deserve a little bit of privacy and he'd say, well no one else gives me any he's just somebody who I mean and it's not just kids. I mean, that's why I asked children are sportswriters. It's adults everybody is just I mean, I hate to I hate to gosh, but everybody has just taken in and drawn into the way he (00:19:41) is. Where are there any baseball players? Is that you saw an observed over the years who really in their heart of hearts didn't like (00:19:51) pocket. No can't can't think of can't think of anything. I'm sure there might have been a picture or two with the twins who wished he'd played a little bit shallower Centerfield. But those were the guys who probably were given up the 430 Foot home runs and it didn't matter. Anyway (00:20:08) Mike's on the line from Egan Mike. What in your mind makes Kirby Puckett so special in Minnesota History. (00:20:17) Well, thank you for taking my call First and also just to let you know I was at one of the World Series games in the 87 and I still have problems when I hearing from that game I think sold out but I think when I look at Kirby Puckett, I think of when you take a young boy who really loves baseball and you look at his face as he's watching the game and you see the excitement and the innocence and the awe that he has for the games you watch his the pros play and that's something Kirby never lost as an adult. He always Had that with him and I think we all saw that and we all respected that that he was one of the few people that to him baseball was more than just a game. It was it was in a sense an experience that delighted him and you don't see that as often as he used to anymore. And that's a (00:21:11) shame. Thanks. Mike Sure a great (00:21:13) Howard. Yeah. It's just you know, it's I don't think we relate to most athletes the way people related to pocket. I mean it's a gross generalization. And yeah, there are you know, there there are some exceptions but pocket just just stood out. I mean you don't see I mean you didn't see pocket do the kind of posturing. I mean, for example, if you compare them to Chris Carter of the Vikings who so future Hall of Famer in football a wonderful receiver, you did not see Puckett draw attention to himself the way the way Carter doesn't it on a routine basis. You know if he caught a pass for a first down or caught a touchdown pass, I mean it was all it was all substance. It was all substance and the exuberance was all it was all natural (00:22:04) Steve your thoughts and Kirby Puckett (00:22:06) place. My thoughts were that he is probably one of the best examples we have living that each of us can emulate in every way in our work in our play in our charitable activities in my other thought was a little bit along the Vikings line. He was one man on a nine-man team that was fielded. Like we have two wonderful young stars and Culpepper and Moss and I think if I were Danny Green, I just put on their locker Kirby Puckett every day in every way and that would be a good sign for each of us. Thanks, you know, that's a really good point when you talk about contemporary athletes and how they're not like the pockets or the wind fields or whomever just from Watching from the outside Daunte Culpepper. Looks like he has the potential to be the most Puckett like just in terms of his the way he he interacts with people. I mean, he it's not fair to compare, you know, the Puckett of you know in his early 30s in the last five years of his career with the way Culpepper is right now, but he could really grow into that role and that's I think it'll be a real treat if that actually happens. (00:23:23) That's our. Midday. We are talking about Kirby Pucket who yesterday was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame a surprise to some people because he didn't really play all that long by Hall of Fame standards and he didn't achieve some of those career statistical marks that so often go with being inducted to the Hall of Fame, but Kirby Pucket as people here in Minnesota became aware of over the years is a well special and he Was elected on the very first ballot yesterday the Hall of Fame and this our midday. We invite you to join our conversation about why it is you think he has maintained and been able to achieve such a such an exalted status here Minnesota, one of the most popular athletes in Minnesota History. Give us a call six five. One two, two seven six thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 22828. We'll continue our conversation with Howard Sinker. We'll get to more of your calls here in just a couple of minutes. (00:24:28) John Ashcroft is not the only controversial Bush nominee facing confirmation hearings this week environmental groups are mounting a campaign to block the confirmation of Gale Norton as George W Bush's Secretary for the interior environmentalists. A Norton is too friendly to business but George w-- Bush says her views are his views. I'm Juan Williams Gale Norton and the environment next Talk of the Nation from NPR news/talk (00:24:53) of the nation begins at 1 o'clock here on Minnesota Public Radio a reminder that Minnesota Public Radio is member supported if you've recently sent in your membership renewal, we thank you news headlines. Now, here's got a Cunningham Greta. Good morning. Gary attorney general nominee. John Ashcroft is defending his anti-abortion views Democrats are questioning Ashcroft on the abortion issue during his second day of confirmation hearings Ashcraft says, he's continually sought to reduce what he calls the aborting of unborn children, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein says, she's found some of Ashcroft anti-abortion positions extreme. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee seem ready to confirm call Impala Secretary of State Powell is using his confirmation hearing today to appeal for more money for foreign. Aid. George w-- Bush is headed to his boyhood home town in West Texas for a send-off on his last trip to Washington before taking office on Saturday more than ten thousand people are expected for the farewell rally in Midland. The US Supreme Court says the constitutional rights of sexually violent Predators aren't necessarily violated when they are confined after their prison terms expire the 821 ruling comes in the case of a six-time rapist in Washington state in Regional news, Minnesota US senator. Paul wellstone will hold a news conference today to announce. He's going to seek a third Senate term. Milestone had previously pledged to limit himself to two terms. He plans to make his announcement at noon at a st. Paul Cafe former, Minnesota Republican US senator Rod Graham said this morning that he's considering running against wellstone in 2002. The State Fire Marshal is at the scene of a huge fire that broke out. At historic Murphy's Landing in Shakopee the fire started in a complex set included a quilt shop set to open in March a restaurant and six Apartments a police officer spotted The Blaze around 4:45 this morning three people were treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation. Murphy's Landing is a living history Village of the 1800s more than 40,000 people visit the site each year the forecast for Minnesota today calls for cloudy skies in the north with a Chance of some light snow in the Northeast partly cloudy in the South today with highs mostly in the 20s at this hour st. Cloud reports. Hazy Skies a temperature of 9 skies are fair and Rochester and 9 degrees. It's partly cloudy in Duluth and 10 degrees and the same in the Twin Cities partly cloudy skies a temperature of 10 degrees Gary. That's a look at the latest news. Thanks Greta. It's about all 27 minutes now before noon. This is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio and today on. Midday. We have come to praise Kirby Puckett Minnesota's most popular athlete who yesterday was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame sports. Analyst Howard Sinker is with us. And again, we invite you to join our conversation jot down. The number all of our lines are busy. But we'd like to get your comments on what in your mind makes Kirby Puckett. So special the number to call six five one two, two seven six thousand or one eight hundred two, four two two eight two eight again, wait for a couple of minutes until some of our lines clear now Twins manager Tom Kelly these days often heard complaining about the modern ballplayer their lack of skills and their lack of dedication to the game this week though. Tom Kelly had quite a different took quite a different tact with Kirby Pucket and fellow Hall of Fame inductee st. Paul native and former twin Dave Winfield Kelly said that not only did both men accumulate impressive career statistics on the field. They also made significant contributions to the community off the (00:28:16) field. We wish there was some kind of stat for it. There was we wish there was a stat for camaraderie. We wish there was a stat for the the fact that they made people around. And then better but there's not there's not a stat for the excitement that they brought to the ballpark each and every day and these are the things that are special about these kind of people that people that end up in the Hall of (00:28:38) Fame. When's manager Tom Kelly as we noted earlier in the program. There was some thought that Kirby Puckett would not get elected to the Hall of Fame this year because it was the first year that he was eligible an honor that is usually reserved for only the best of the best theory was that pocket didn't quite measure up statistically because he didn't play long enough, but Jim kaat who pitched for the twins for 13 years and worked as a twins broadcaster from 1988 to 1993 and who himself finished 10th in the Hall of Fame voting this year. Jim kaat says there was no question in his mind that Kirby did deserve immediate induction into the Hall of (00:29:14) Fame I certainly do and I'm certainly thrilled for him because I think the overall you can nitpick at some of the requirements for belonging to the Hall of Fame, but I think were you adopted. Going to player during your during your term during your career and I believe Kirby was like a ten-time All-Star. So certainly he was dominant. He I think was the the centerpiece of the Twins winning two World Series and in there's also something in there about, you know, your contributions to your to the game your conduct Etc. And I don't think there's anybody during Kirby's era that that influenced other players in terms of their attitude that that endeared himself to the fans like he did not only in Minnesota but all over the country and certainly if there was a player that didn't play in a big Market that deserved to go in on the first ballot, which I was sad to see that Harmon Killebrew did not go in on the first ballot Kirby would be that guy and I'm very happy for him (00:30:19) in terms. Just talking about his baseball skills. How good was Kirby Puckett in your (00:30:25) mind? Well, I think Look at the record, he was durable. He played every game he was he played a demanding position in center field with the not a center fielders body. You know, he played it with a full backs body and yet was able to cover a lot of ground at first when he came up. He didn't hit for power. But Tony Oliva, I think made a little adjustment in his stride and eventually he hit for power he hit for average and and he hid in the clutch. And so I don't when you look at his ability, you know, he didn't play The Outfield say with the grace of a Joe DiMaggio or maybe didn't have the athletic ability of Dave Winfield but baseball skill-wise, I don't think you could ask any more for of a player than what Kirby (00:31:14) did and of course what makes this story so special for minnesotans is not just the fact he was a good player as you know, but it's this it's Kirby himself. Can you talk a little bit about that? (00:31:28) Well, I what what always impressed me about Kirby is is whether you were the 25th man on the team or whether you were another star like Kent Hrbek or Bert Blyleven or Frank Viola Kirby would would treat you the same. He never held himself above other players and I unfortunately I see that happen with other players when I was a member of the media, even though I was a former player I saw him, you know, very friendly to an accessible to people in the media regardless of what their position was. He didn't play any favorites. I think Kirby was just I was talking about it with a friend of mine and I said what made him so special is he was just a genuine person. He was totally unaffected by the fame that he had acquired coming from, you know, the Robert Taylor projects and he spoke so fondly of his of his background and the values that were instilled in him by Mother and I think as a person even aside from a baseball player. He was a great baseball person. (00:32:34) Why do you suppose kids liked him so much. (00:32:36) Well, I think because of his head that teddy bear look about him, you know, how kids love little stuffed animals and that's kind of Kirby look like a little stuffed animal running around a baseball suit (00:32:47) anybody in the game today that has kind of filled his shoes in terms of his rapport with the fans and his ability (00:32:56) nobody and I say that not necessarily from a critical standpoint, but the players today are I think they're a little more sophisticated. There are some terrific individual people live privilege to cover the Yankees and see Derek Jeter and how he conducts himself and and first class but but there's nobody that compares to Kirby because of that, you know, we all were all individuals thank goodness. And you know, he has his own fingerprint where he Had that relationship with the fans. He had that bubbly personality. He was able to walk in the clubhouse and say to his teammates jump on boys. I'm driving the bus and he would get the big hits that day and yet he always would throw batting practice to the some of the other players kids. He just had a quality about him that I don't think any other player had or has today (00:33:49) former twins pitcher a former twins broadcaster and Hall of Fame nominee Jim. Kaat talking about Kirby Puckett. It does sound Howard Sinker like Puckett. Well, let me ask you this. Just forgetting about all of his off the field attributes, you know, the fact he was good with kids and a good Ambassador for the game and so on was he in your mind how good of a baseball player was he (00:34:20) he was about a nine point nine five out of a 10. I mean you could quibble with how deep he played center field. You can go back to the first two years of his career when he didn't hit for any power whatsoever. And you can say see he wasn't he wasn't to be feared from start to finish but you know, it's not like I mean, you know in the the final years of Winfield's career, he wasn't what he was in his prime and that's typically the case with Hall of Famers. We don't know how much longer I could would have gone on and as a hitter, you know, once he evolved into a power hitter there was there was nothing in baseball. That was as much fun to watch funny story. I remember the road trip in 1986 when Puckett all of a sudden became a power hitter. He was batting leadoff. They were in Baltimore and I believe for two straight games. He hit the first pitch out of the park and then they went to Detroit he hit he led off the game with a home run and the next night the Twins were playing Detroit again, Frank Tanana was pitching and everybody gathered to watch the first pitch into now. Bout to about 15 feet in front of the plate because he would just wasn't going to let that happen. Again (00:35:33) New Era had (00:35:34) begun. Yeah, and then all of a sudden this little guy who would bunt his way on base when all else would fail, you know, he went from hitting four home runs in 1985 very 1984-1985 to 231. I think in 86 86 was the year when he you know arrived as a number three hitter as a full-blown power (00:35:56) hitter Steve. Why do you suppose Kirby Puckett remains? So popular with minnesotans? (00:36:04) Well, I think it's because well first I want to applaud the decision to get him into the Hall of Fame. I think it's a real reminder for all of us that greatness is more than just statistics greatness is a matter of the heart and the soul and I'm just echoing everyone else who's been applauding Kirby Puckett. I think he was just a great player on and off the field and I think that's That's the real the wonderful thing about this decision. It reminds us of that. There's a lot of people in the Hall of Fame that you know, people didn't like Kirby Puckett is beloved and on and off the field. I think that's that's why he's so beloved. He showed people how the game should be played and also how people should live their lives. I mean, I was moved again to hear his speech as he was retiring and he wasn't bemoaning the past or bemoaning fate what had dealt him. He just said look, I love the game. I gave it a hundred and twenty five percent when I was playing it and now I move on in life goes on and there's more to life than baseball and I'm going to live life with the same enthusiasm after baseball as I did during my my career. What a wonderful attitude thanks to thank you. Let's (00:37:14) move on to Liesl who joins us from Fargo your comment Liesl. (00:37:19) Yes. I think I think he is beloved and he's a real-life hero and he's one of the few sports figures he's Only one I ever saw who really deserve the amount of adoration that he got. He was he was a real real person and I went I went to a Twins game once with a group of exchange students. I was in high school and several of them were not familiar with the game of baseball at all, but they had been in town for about two weeks and they all knew who Kirby Puckett was and they were all eager to see him and I distinctly remember explaining to one girl from Brazil. First of all pointing out Kirby Puckett then trying to explain the game of baseball and explain what he was doing out there in center field and it didn't matter to them so much what what his position was although they did they did catch on why he was such a big deal, but just he was someone you could love and and not be not be disappointed by bad behavior like so many Their sports figures. Thanks Liesl appreciate the comment. I remember after the ten 411 weekend in Milwaukee in 1987. We were up on the North Shore and we were having dinner and all of a sudden you hear a three-year-old in the other corner of the restaurant just out of the blue to the Bob Casey Kirby Puckett imitation imitation, and it just totally cracked up the restaurant. I mean, it was just I mean if you were a toddler that was your introduction to Twins baseball, that was the name you knew and if you jumped on the bandwagon and 87 or 91, it was likely as not because of pocket (00:39:02) when you traveled with the team what kind of reception did Kirby get in other baseball cities, (00:39:08) you know any macphail the the twins vice president who's now with the Cubs pointed to pocket as one of the few players who actually put people in the seats and other cities you would come out to see him people would come out to see him play. It was like Fernando Valenzuela went during his Prime with the Dodgers or Ken Griffey jr. Or Mark McGwire. And I mean, there are a lot of very very very good players who don't transcend that mean you don't need you didn't go out just to see Eddie Murray for example, and he's a hall-of-famer. He's a great player but people reacted to him. You didn't hear Kirby Puckett get booed (00:39:52) sports. Analyst Howard Sinker is with us. We don't have a lot of time left. But if you'd like to join our conversation here, we're talking about Kirby Puckett like your thoughts on why he is or was and remains so popular here in the state of Minnesota. What is it about Kirby that everybody seems to like he was inducted yesterday or voted into the Hall of Fame. You'll be inducted to August 5th like to join our conversation, six five. One two, two seven six thousand 1-800 to for 22828 and Dave your comment, please. (00:40:23) Yeah one thing that struck me right away. The first time ever heard his name Kirby Puckett when he came up with the twins and may of 84. I didn't know if that was a blessing or a curse to have a name like that, but it certainly made it a lot easier to remember out his outstanding performances associated with that name. And the other thing I wanted to comment on was if nothing else his getting into the Hall of Fame really puts in perspective all the intangibles that he possessed that should be given to somebody who's being considered for the Hall of Fame because certainly he's a perfect example of how important all those other things that every baseball player aspires to try to be and do I mean he had it all and obviously his career was cut short but the fact that he got it in the first time just shows what an impact he made possessing all those other (00:41:23) intangibles. Okay. Thanks. Dave Howard should base. All writers are the ones that vote on the players. Should they consider or impose a kind of good citizenship test on on potential inductees? Well, (00:41:37) it's written into the rules for Hall of Fame balloting its contributions to the game. It's the way they conducted themselves on and off the field and granted there have been times when people have closed their eyes to a certain behaviors. But yeah, I think that's that's part of the package and rub sure that's part of the package that the put pocket over the top because if he'd been a guy who had fussed and feuded with writers and and had a dark side to him. I just don't think this would have happened (00:42:14) Ted your comment, please. (00:42:15) Yes, not only, you know, just being a great baseball player. He's actually a great person. I had a nephew a few years back that was dying of a brain tumor and children's hospital and in calling the Sort of twins within a day Kirby was out at the hospital with my nephew and all the and all the other kids signing autographs having photos taken it made every one of those kids in that word. You just put a smile on their face it just fantastic. (00:42:41) Pretty common Behavior Howard for the pro athlete these days. I know they make many of them do make personal appearances at you. Never hear about (00:42:49) yeah teams do things like this in an orchestrated basis. I think that the Kirby was beyond the norm. Oh, you could get Buckets to do things that other whether it was picking up the phone and calling somebody you could get him to do things that a lot of athletes are much more reluctant to do. I mean he went beyond the okay, it's you know team day at the hospital kind of citizenship. (00:43:16) Rick your comment, please. (00:43:17) I think it's important to note that you know, all of us Kirby received was not just because he was a HomeTown favorite be supposed to keep Nationwide and I think it speaks loudly as to the fact that Society is hungry for athletes that are good citizens that there isn't all this negativity surrounding them all the time and I guess so hang up and listen to hear if you have comments (00:43:37) National appeal again Howard that you're talking about (00:43:39) right and it's just I just can't think of anyone who who had much bad to say (00:43:45) about them. Mike you're up next. (00:43:49) Yeah, thanks for taking me a call as a great discussion. And I think what my comment would be as I think we all have a lot to learn from a person like Kirby Puckett in his infectious attitude and they scanned the applied to you know, relationships to a certainly business and industry and I'm just absolutely thrilled with the fact that he's been brought into the Hall of Fame and I am curious if your guests and knows if of all the things that he has said in his various press conferences has ever been published or recorded because I think a lot of it has a lot of value to people in all walks of life. (00:44:26) Anybody compiled the words of Kirby that you know of Howard. (00:44:29) Wow, that's a that's a great question kind of like I'd certainly read that before I would reread the the book of Calvinism that were done about Calvin Griffith. I do not know if the speech is have been catalogued by anyone. That's a wonderful question. You know when you go back and listen to the retirement speech in 19 1996, you can just you know, tell how much from the heart that it is. It's just so you know, there's no script there, you know, there are probably a few notes, but and it was like yesterday, you know, he was it was rambling an eloquent at the same time. He told people what baseball meant to him and at the same time he was honest enough to talk about what he meant to baseball and he did it without sounding self-centered or egotistical and it was just it was fun. It was fun to listen to him. Talk Puckett is one of the he should have been a preacher. He probably would have been as good a minister as he was a centerfielder people would just listen to him (00:45:35) talk. Sometimes a little hard to follow what he's saying though. And (00:45:42) never hard to follow what I'm saying, you know, that's yeah, but that's jumping from place to place to place to place having to deal with the same questions again, and again and again and again and rather than saying hey, I've already answered that or times up folks. He would answer and yeah, sometimes his mind was, you know a million miles away, but I you know, I really did see him. It's one of the things Jim kaat said I did see him treat, you know guys from Sports reporters from Brainerd or Grand Forks or wherever the the with the same affability that he that he treated, you know us and the guys from New York and whomever and that's (00:46:27) rare map to a quick comment before we wrap up here. (00:46:31) Oh, yes. I just wanted to say that I I mean a lot of ball players and a lot of sports celebrities, you know do a lot of charity work and stuff like that and I certainly commend all of them but Kirby Pucket at definitely had a something beyond that my mother ran into him in a grocery store here in one of the suburbs of Minneapolis and he accidentally bumped into her and her back was to him and he said, oh, I'm sorry. Am I in the way and he just handled the situation so sweetly and just like any other person would and I think that's one of the things that Kirby Puckett really stood out is that he didn't act like a big celebrity. He didn't act like a big star, you know, he was he was just a ballplayer and and someone who really cared about other people. (00:47:15) Thank you man. Appreciate the comment Howard. Thanks for playing hurt (00:47:19) today. It's been a pleasure. It's been a pleasure to do an hour with you in which everybody so upbeat cheerful and positive myself (00:47:26) included hard not to be with Kirby what very briefly Howard what should baseball give him a job like king of public relations or (00:47:35) something. I think just King King Kirby the first king of baseball, that would be great that his job. To be to get Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame. (00:47:44) Thanks so much for joining us hard. Push are always a pleasure. Take care of yourself sports analyst Star Tribune State News editor and former baseball writer Howard Sinker joining us this hour of midday to talk about Kirby Pucket who along with St. Paul native Paul Dave Winfield was inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday to the surprise of some pocket went in on the very first ballot as did Dave Winfield. He was considered more of a lock but pocket little question about that but into the Hall of Fame the official induction ceremony, August 5th in Cooperstown. Once Upon a Time as souped-up Plymouth was a teen Rebels dream, but in the late 90s and into today the role of hot rod Hero has fallen to the humble Honda Civic. I'm David brancaccio more on the hot rod of the people plus the latest in global business news later on Marketplace from PRI. That's today at 6:30 here on Minnesota Public (00:48:42) Radio. (00:48:48) Five minutes now before 12 o'clock.


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