Hall of Fame baseball player Kirby Puckett dies of stroke

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Kirby Puckett, a former professional baseball player and Minnesota Twins legend, died Monday afternoon, March 6, in a Phoenix, Arizona, hospital, one day after suffering a stroke and undergoing emergency surgery for the resultant cerebral hemorrhage. He was 45 years old.

The Hall of Fame center fielder, whose .318 career batting average is surpassed only by Joe DiMaggio among right-handed hitters, was a ten-time All-Star in twelve seasons with the Minnesota Twins. "Puck" won six Gold Glove awards and five Silver Slugger awards for defensive and offensive excellence at his position, and led the Twins to World Series Championships in 1987 and 1991. He retired as the Twins' all-time leader in hits, doubles, total bases, at-bats and runs, records that he still holds to this day. Unfortunately, his playing career was cut short in 1996, when he was diagnosed with glaucoma, which has left him blind in one eye. Even though his career was considerably shorter than those of most inductees, it was long enough for Baseball Hall of Fame eligibility. He was inducted in 2001, his first year of eligibility.

Puckett had gained weight in recent years, and was reportedly still suffering from a bitter divorce in 2002, and was still depressed about his career being cut short. His professional relationship with the Twins ended in 2002, and he went into seclusion thereafter. However, the Twins have constantly attempted to contact Puckett in hopes that he would return to help the team in some form. He also had his personal reputation sullied by an incident in 2003 where he was accused of groping a woman in a bathroom in a Minneapolis-area restaurant. He was cleared of all charges, but the emotional damage he incurred from the incident had increased his self-imposed seclusion from the baseball community.

Puckett suffered the stroke early Sunday morning at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was initially transported by ambulance to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, then was airlifted to Scottsdale Osborne Hospital for emergency surgery in an attempt to stop a cerebral hemorrhage. After that, he was transferred St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix in hopes of further treatment. His condition declined, however. He received the last rites and passed away Monday afternoon.

Puckett is survived by his ex-wife Tonya, his children Catherine and Kirby Jr., and his fiancee, Jodi Olson. Funeral arrangements are pending.


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