Year Inducted: 2001 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 423/515)
Another great center fielder, another legally mandated clip:
Gotta love Jack Buck.
Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Sometimes an injury curtails an awesome career well before it should have. Sometimes there is seemingly no event or action to cause it, a guy just wakes up and his vision is gone in one eye forever. Hopefully, if that guy is a truly great player, justice is done and he is voted into the Hall of Fame before passing away. Thankfully, that was the case for Kirby Puckett.
Puckett was the very definition of a team MVP in his brief career in the Twin Cities. He hit .318/.360/.477 for a wRC+ of 122. A consistent offensive force, he drove in and scored over 1000 runs in his career thanks to hitting 207 home runs, 414 doubles and 57 triples. The Twins won two World Series with Puckett in the lineup, with him being a major presence in both series.
Puckett’s numbers, like Earl Averill’s yesterday, don’t look as impressive as other center fielders who had long careers. However, when compared to his peers, it’s easy to see why he was as great as he was. The average center fielder had an OPS that was 100 points lower than Puckett’s, and would hit 80 fewer homers as well. While Puckett was not a great fielder or baserunner, he was 20% better than the average center fielder with the bat, a sizeable margin that shows how great he really was.
George Brett, a great hitter in his own right, got his 3000th hit against Puckett’s Twins and no one cheered harder than Puckett. After the game, during the celebration, Brett mentioned that he expected to be there to see Puckett get his 3000th hit. Alas, it was never meant to be.
Puckett’s career was cut short by a terrible eye condition. In Spring Training of 1996, Puckett woke up one day with blurry vision in his right eye and saw a black dot out of the eye. He opened the season on the DL, hoping it would correct itself, but by July if anything it got worse, forcing him to retire prematurely.
Puckett’s brief but brilliant career definitely deserves his induction to the Hall of Fame, as he was clearly a top centerfielder in his career.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck, 9/21/16 this pitcher was one of the most infamous players to elect to wear no insignia on his hat, and had a nickname for no reason other than Charlie Finley.