Results tagged ‘ Tony Oliva ’

50 years ago, Kirby Puckett began Hall of Fame journey

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

It should have been a milestone birthday, with friends and family gathered around Kirby Puckett to celebrate the big 5-0.

Instead, it is a reminder of what the baseball world lost with the premature death of the ebullient Puckett – and a chance to remember a player whose spirit will never die.

03-15-10-Muder_Puckett.jpgSunday marked the 50th anniversary of Puckett’s birth. The 2001 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee died in 2006 of complications from a stroke.

In between, Puckett lit up the baseball landscape with his smile, enthusiasm and all-around play in center field for the Minnesota Twins.

“He deserved the best,” said former Twins star Tony Oliva. “I know he was the best.”

Puckett was the third pick overall in the 1982 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and became the Twins’ starting center fielder in 1984. Two years later, after four home runs in his first 1,248 big league at-bats, Puckett hit 31 home runs and drove in 96 runs while hitting .328. He won his first of six Gold Gloves that year for his defensive play.

“I was nervous when I got to the big leagues, but I was never afraid,” Puckett said. “Like every ballplayer and every human being, I failed lots of times throughout my career. But I understood how to overcome and recognize the true power of learning from failure.”

In all, Puckett played 12 major league seasons before glaucoma in his right eye forced his retirement at age 35. He led the American League in hits four times, was named to 10 All-Star teams and helped the Twins win World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

In 2001 in his first year eligible, he was elected to the Hall of Fame after receiving 82.1 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

On the road at TwinsFest

DiFranza_90.jpgBy Lenny DiFranza

I spent the last weekend of January representing the Baseball Hall of Fame at TwinsFest in the Metrodome, one of baseball’s largest fan fests. It’s great to celebrate the National Pastime in the dead of winter as the baseball world turns its attention from hot stove planning to spring training.

02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest.jpgTwinsFest, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Twins Community Fund begun in 1989, has raised millions of dollars for local organizations. Many fans stopped by our spot in right field to see the artifacts we brought and to say hello, weigh Bert Blyleven’s chances for election to the Hall next year, talk about trips to Cooperstown and sign up for our membership program.

Many Twins fans, young and old, enjoyed over 50 artifacts from the Hall’s collection, like Ty Cobb’s small glove, Lou Gehrig’s jersey from his final season in pinstripes and a tunic from a 1940s Michigan team in the women’s pro league, the AAGPBL. But the most popular items were from Twins history, including the ball Dave Kingman hit into the Dome’s roof in 1984, the ball Gene Larkin knocked into left-center to win the 1991 World Series, hometown hero Joe Mauer’s bats from each of the three seasons he won the AL batting crown and the Hall of Fame plaque of Harmon Killebrew.

Many current Twins were on hand such as Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and new Twin Jim Thome, as well as former greats Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Tony Oliva. Bob Feller had Frank Howard and Denny McLain at his booth, while Fergie Jenkins led Rollie Fingers and other players raising money for Haitian relief.
 
02-08-10-DiFranza_TwinsFest2.jpgThough the Twins have hosted the Hall at TwinsFest for many years, it was my first trip to the Twin Cities. I was impressed by the friendly folks and fantastic food. I only got lost a few times in the downtown skyways and enjoyed a tour of the Twins new outdoor home, Target Field, which looks like a great place to see a game.

After a thrilling season last year and a new ballpark in 2010, I sensed a lot of excitement from the Twins and their fans. It turned out to be one of the biggest TwinsFests they’ve ever had.

Our thanks to Jackie Hoff and the team from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who installed the exhibit and showed me the ropes. The Twins’ staff was great, especially Heidi Sammon, Glo Westerdahl, and their new curator, Clyde Doepner. I hope the Twins and their fans have a great 2010.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator for new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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