Inside Pitch

May 8, 1984: Future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett records four singles in his first big league game

 

BY NICK ANAPOLIS
may 6, 2013

 

Kirby Puckett's ever-present smile, leadership skills and outgoing personality made him a fan-favorite in Minnesota. (NBHOF Library)

 

 

To record your first career hit in your major league debut is one thing, but to have four of them is a day to remember.

Twenty-nine years ago this week – on May 8, 1984 – Kirby Puckett registered four singles in his first major league appearance with the Minnesota Twins. 

The 5-foot-8 Chicago native was an All-American in high school, drafted third overall by the Twins in the 1982 amateur draft out of Triton College. After leading the Appalachian League in average with a .382 mark at Elizabethton in 1982 and winning the Player of the Year award in the California League the following year, Puckett was called up from Triple-A Toledo one month into the 1984 season. 

Borrowing $83 to pay for his cab fare from the airport to Anaheim Stadium, Puckett arrived late and was kept on the bench by manager Billy Gardner. The next day, the 24-year-old Puckett made his major league debut, batting leadoff and starting in center field versus the Angels. 

After grounding out to short in his first at-bat, the 23,678 in attendance witnessed Puckett’s first major league hit – a single off right-hander Jim Slaton. Puckett would finish with three more singles, going 4-for-5 with a stolen base and a run scored, helping the Twins win their fifth straight game. 

“I’d rather get four base hits than hit a home run.” said Puckett.

In 128 games that season, Puckett had a .296 average, 165 hits, 63 runs, 14 stolen bases and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. In 1987, Puckett led the Twins to their first World Series title, and in 1989 he won his first AL batting title with a .339 average.

Then in 1991, Puckett helped the Twins become the first team to go from last place in their division to World Series champions in consecutive seasons. His heroic effort in Game 6 was one of the finest postseason performances of all-time. Puckett robbed the Braves' Ron Gant of an extra base hit, had four hits, and ended the game on a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to force Game 7. The Twins would go on to beat the Braves in one of the most competitive Fall Classics ever played.  

The two-time World Series champion is third all-time for most hits in a player’s first 10 seasons. His career came to an abrupt end, however, when he woke up days before the start of the 1996 season without vision in his right eye. Glaucoma would force Puckett, 35, to retire after 12 seasons with the Twins. 

The 10-time All-Star ended his career with the highest batting average for a right-hand hitter since Joe DiMaggio, hitting at .318 a clip. Puckett finished with 2,304 hits, 207 home runs, 1,085 RBI, six Silver Slugger Awards, and six Gold Glove Awards.

Puckett - who hit over .300 eight times in his career - led the league in hits four times and total bases twice. He is one of only three American League players to have two six-hit games in their career, joining Jimmie Foxx and Doc Cramer. 

“Baseball doesn’t owe me a thing. I owe my whole life to baseball.” said Puckett.

In 2001, Puckett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his first time on the ballot. He passed away on March 6, 2006.

Nick Anapolis was the spring 2013 public relations intern at the Baseball Hall of Fame

 

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