Puckett touches them all

Brian Hall

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The man so many teammates and fans had learned to count on once again kept his word.

Once again, Kirby Puckett lived up to his promise.

Similar to his now famous speech before Game Six of the 1991 World Series – when he told teammates to jump on his back and then put on possibly the single greatest performance in a World Series – Puckett came through in the clutch.

Former Minnesota Twin Kirby Puckett swore he would not cry during his speech at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. As confident as ever, Puckett strode to the podium on Sunday and made his speech without shedding one tear.

While Puckett might not have shed tears during his speech, he admitted afterward to letting his emotions loose during the speech of fellow inductee Bill Mazeroski.

“You guys didn’t see it because I am so cool,” Puckett said. “But I lost it with Maz, I really did. You could tell, and feel, how Maz was feeling.”

Mazeroski made one of the shortest Hall of Fame speeches in history when he decide to scrap his 12-page speech due to the tears streaming from his eyes.

Each of the inductees felt the support of the reported 23,000 fans in attendance. Included in that number was a large throng of travelers from Minnesota.

“Everybody I ran into in Minnesota were telling me that they were going to come here,” Puckett said. “From the looks of all the people with my jersey on today, they were Minnesota people everywhere.

“The Minnesota fans were screaming my name the whole day and it was very wonderful.”

Puckett, whose career was cut short by glaucoma in 1996, was joyful and gracious. He thanked his family, teammates and coaches, fans, and heroes.

“My on-the-field heroes were the great Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Willie Mays,” Puckett said. “I wanted to be like them on the field, and now I am so damn proud to join them in the Hall of Fame.”

Throughout his playing days Puckett inspired his teammates and fans alike with his all-out play and infectious smile.

Even at the culmination of his career, he looked to inspire others from the podium and give back to the people who have given him so much.

Puckett spoke of growing up in the ghetto of south Chicago. He told young fans he is an example of what they could accomplish if they put their minds to it.

As his Hall of Fame plaque states, he is “a proven team leader, with an-ever present smile and infectious exuberance.” Puckett presented his speech in the same manner.

A first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, Puckett had to deal with considerable adversity in his life, yet he continued to smile.

“I faced odds when glaucoma took the bat out of my hands,” Puckett said. “But I didn’t give in or feel sorry for myself. It may be cloudy in my right eye, but the sun is shining very brightly in my left eye.”

Puckett’s spirit brought fans to their feet and Minnesotans to Cooperstown to show their appreciation.

“I will never forget this day for the rest of my life,” Puckett said.

Neither will those fans who enjoyed the career of a true champion and a true ambassador of his sport.

 

Brian Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]