Monday, March 06, 2006

One of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life was the sixth game of the 1991 series. The look on Kirby Puckett's face as he went to bat--the "Come on, throw it, I'm gonna hit the sucker over the wall" look, the taunts to the pitcher, Kirby hollering like he meant it, all of which means something coming from a guy as genial on the field as he was--has never left my memory, nor has him then DOING IT.

Just as indelible as that overtime first-pitch home run was watching Tommy Lasorda look like his head was going to explode during the post-game commentary. Lasorda had been helping call the Series, and he'd always named Puckett his number-one man if he had to start a team from scratch. After Kirby's smack, Lasorda was rocking in his chair like a bobblehead doll with the head inflated, his eyes popping out. Lasorda looked like a man possessed, blithering about how it was the greatest thing he'd ever seen in his baseball life. He looked, at that moment, the way everyone rooting for the Twins felt.

Being a Minneapolis teenager when that happened was a hell of a great moment, and you didn't have to give fuck one about sports (I mostly didn't) to know it. Puckett was the rare breed of artist whose every pore vibrated with pleasure in what he was doing, someone you could tell lived for his job, who couldn't believe his luck that he was not only able to play baseball but that he got paid for it. Humble wasn't what it was, though--there was very little piety in his attitude. He was instead ferocious, the spark that set off the rocket, an absolute fucking hero for anyone who ever loved anything more than they could possibly express in words. Just like having him pass away at a mere 45 years old feels like being punched in the gut.