Monday, March 13, 2006
Good Monday morning everyone! What a week it was last week. It all started last Sunday when we heard about the stroke and subsequent death of our own hero, Kirby Puckett. Other events happened throughout the week as well. But it all culminated last night with the Twins Tribute to Kirby Puckett. (for more, click here. I know that it was on mlb.com last night live, so I am assuming they will have a link where you will be able to watch it again online.)
Last night, it ended with a wonderful tribute to Mr. Puckett. Cal Ripken, Jr., Harmon Killebrew, Ron Gardenhire, Al Newman, Dan Gladden, David Winfield and others spoke their tributes to Kirby. Mudcat Grant sang Louie Armstrong's classic What a Wonderful World.
Tom Kelly showed off his infamous speaking skills, but there is one thing I remember about Kelly's coaching career. When the Twins won the World Series in 1987, Tom Kelly stayed in the dugout as the players celebrated their championship. When asked, the humble Kelly just said that the players had done this, that they deserved this. So last night when it was his turn to speak, something he knows he isn't good at, he brought up all of the former teammates that were in attendance. He shared the stage with them. And, he may not speak eloquently, but he made his points and in the end, he spoke powerfully.
Harmon Killebrew wondered aloud why he was chosen to speak. He noted that there were several in attendance who were better friends, or were teammates of his. But Killebrew is a Twins Hall of Famer, and hearing him speak is always a thrill. He did a great job. Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and David Winfield were other Twins in the Hall of Fame who were there. Bert Blyleven who should be a Hall of Famer, without question, and Tony Oliva, who is sitting just outside of Cooperstown's gates, were also there.
Kent Hrbek was announced by himself to speak. Clearly, Dan Gladden and Al Newman should have been brought up individually. They spoke separately, and both were closer friends than Hrby was. Both are good speakers and did a great job.
Speaking of former teammates, how great was it to see so many of them. Juan Berenguer is a big man, and I would love to see the Berenguer Boogie again. Is it just me, or do Greg Gagne and Steve Lombardozzi look like they could still turn some double plays? Shane Mack and Chili Davis both look like they could still hit! Randy Bush. Don Baylor. Gene Larkin. Terry Steinbach. Mike Pagliarulo and Scott Leius. Frank Viola! Tom Kelly noted that there was one former teammate that really wanted to be there, but could not be at this time, and that was Jeff Reardon. There were others as well, that on quick glimpse, I could not put names to.
I was happy to see and hear from Andy McPhail. He is the current President of the Chicago Cubs, but he was very instrumental in those championship seasons as the GM. I have always admired him from a distance.
It was great that Cal Ripken was there to speak. I think he was an excellent choice to speak as the Voice of the Opponents. He echoed reports that Kirby was a talker and everyone enjoyed talking to him. Ripken is a great speaker and just understands what needs to be said.
Vince Coleman was there. He was a good friend of Kirby's and had visited him in the Scottsdale Hospital last week. He sat in the players' section alongside his cousin, former Vikings punter Greg Coleman.
And there were current Twins there as well. They flew up to Minneapolis from Ft. Myers on Sunday morning for the afternoon private funeral. They were there for the tribute. Supposedly, they are expected to fly back to Ft. Myers, arriving there around 3:30 a.m. Brad Radke is the only current Twins player who was on the roster in 1995 when Kirby was still playing. Torii Hunter was scheduled to pitch, but realized that there was no way he could have made it through such a speech. Hunter was not a teammate of Puckett's, but he learned so much from him. So did Jacque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado, who were all there. Rondell White and Shannon Stewart were also there.
Joe Mauer was in attendance. He didn't play with Puckett. As a matter of fact, when Puckett played his final game in 1995, Mauer was just 12 years old. He was just eight when they won the World Series in 1991 and just four when they won it in 1987. However, Mauer represents a generation of Minnesota-born athletes who likely grew up idolizing Kirby Puckett. Twins minor leaguers such as Pat Neshek and Glen Perkins are others. But what about other Minnesotans who have played in the big leagues in recent years who grew up watching Kirby? What about Jim Brower, Jim Crowell, Ben Hendrickson, Dan Johnson, Josh Johnson, Dave Maurer, Rob and Tom Quinlan, Brian Raabe, Chris Reitsma, Michael Restovich, Kerry Taylor and Michael Wuertz? Those are just the recent Minnesota-born players who have made it to the big leagues. That doesn't mention all of the minor leaguers like Jake and Bill Mauer, JP Gagne, Jack and Buzz Hannahan, Luke Appert, Chris Schwab or Chris Weinke? What about North Dakota-born players like Darin Erstad, Tim Olson, Travis Hafner, Rick Helling or Chris Coste? What about South Dakota-born players like Justin Duchscherer, Brandon Claussen, Keith Foulke and Kerry Ligtenberg? I think that it is fair to say that many of them grew up wanting to be a ball player because of Kirby Puckett.
What a nice tribute! I would have loved to have been at Metrodome last night for the event. Like most of the fans there, I would not have had a dry eye. When Mariah Carey's Hero played, how could anyone have held back tears? And, am I the only one who gets a little choked up every time you hear the phrase, "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" What about Bob Casey announcing Kiiiiirrrrrrrrrbbbbbyyy Puckett?
The toughest part was seeing the families. Seeing Tonya Puckett, Kirby's ex-wife, sitting between her children Catherine and Kirby, Jr. The kids were so strong, it almost makes me worry more about them and what is going on in their heads. I certainly hope and wish nothing but the best for them. As difficult as the news of Kirby's death has been for us as fans, I think we need to take a step back and realize how awful it must be for the family. And then there is Jody Olson, Kirby's fiance, and her son Cameron. I am sure that they are both struggling mightily too.
It was a very nice tribute. I was very disappointed when I turned on Fox Sports North at 7:00 only to find that the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers were still on. I know that the Twins were disappointed with their flagship radio station, WCCO, for not being able to air the tribute live for the same reason. But, I knew it would be on at some point, so when it was 9:00, I flipped back to FSN and taped it. I hope to watch it from time to time. I will put it right next to my Hall of Fame videos!
Here is Jim Souhan's account of the tribute. Patrick Reusse writes about all of the former teammates and opponents that were at the funeral yesterday afternoon in Wayzata. Nick N. attended the event, and here are his thoughts.
Anyway, I would love to hear your Comments on the Tribute, so please feel free to e-mail me or leave Comments below.
Other Quick Notes -
Because I have been out of town, I will just make a few notes. Starting tomorrow, I will try to return fully to the website. Again, I have to do Fantasy Perspectives for the AL East Pitchers as well as for the pitchers of the National League teams. I also am finishing up a Q&A, so thank you again for your patience.
Aaron Gleeman wrote a posting of Twins Notes last Friday, and some readers chose to bash him for writing about Tony Batista again (which was just a very small percentage of the posting). He had really just given more quotes from people saying that he will be very disappointing. Some of his readers chose to bash Aaron for re-hashing his dislike of the type of player that Batista is, that is to say a guy who can hit a few homers but will make outs about 73% of the time. Now, I happen to agree with Aaron and the masses, that the Batista signing was terrible. That said, I am really tired of the whole discussion. As others have said, let's just see how it goes once the regular season starts. And, more importantly, when the move proves to be a great failure, how will Terry Ryan respond, and how quickly?
Speaking of Aaron, he has unveiled his choice for the #31 Twins Player of All-Time, so be sure to check who it is.
So far this spring (through Sunday), Chris Coste is 7-15 for the Phillies. He is hitting .467/.500/.733 with a double, a homer and four RBI.
Twins minor league camp officially opens for the full squad today. Pitchers and catchers reported on Thursday. Although I was not at all surprised that Glen Perkins was sent to minor league camp, even this early, I am more surprised that Matt Garza is sticking around a little longer and will make a start on Thursday.
Did you watch Team USA's win over Japan yesterday? How is it possible that the umps decided to overturn their call and say that a Japanese base runner tagged early from 3B against Joe Nathan. The run would have given Japan a 4-3 lead, but instead the inning was over and the game was still tied. That was a horrible call! Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?
By the way, I may not be a fan of the politics in Cuba, but I do enjoy watching them play baseball. They do all the little things, they are aggressive at the plate. They are just fun to watch. Yesterday, they got a first inning run off of Venezuela's Johan Santana. Santana gave up only the one run in his five innings. But in the sixth, Cuba scored six runs off of Giovanni Carrera to put the game out of reach.
Did you see that the Indians locked up SS Jhonny Peralta to a five year, $13 million contract late last week? A year ago, they did the same thing with Victor Martinez. Now, why don't the Twins do this? It really just makes sense. They should have locked up Joe Mauer through his arbitration years this offseason. It will come back to cost them much more now. Actually, a little foresight might make signing Justin Morneau long-term coming off of a bad season may have saved them a lot of money over the next four or five years.
Nick & Nick are working on some Twins positional analyses.
By the way, I'm a few days late, but be sure to go to your Bookmarks and change the url of Stick and Ball Guy. He changed it last week.
OK, that is it for a Monday. Like I said, I am back and should be ready to go again. Hopefully things will be much more calm this week. I hope you understand. Again, feel free to e-mail me, or Comment below. Thanks!
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