October 20, 2002


SAY IT AIN'T SO, KIRBY: It's a bad day when your team gets eliminated from the playoffs, but it's much, much worse when your childhood hero and favorite athlete of all time gets arrested for sexual assault. But that's what happened to Kirby Puckett on Friday, after a woman accused the Hall of Famer of groping her in the mens' room of a Minneapolis-area eatery. My allusions about Kirby, the man I spent the first 23 years of my life believing was different from all the other athletes, were shattered last year when his wife, Tanya, filed for divorce after Kirby allegedly threatened over the phone to kill her when she complained about his serial infidelites. Then he was accused earlier this year of harassing another woman, and now the new charges.
There once was a time when I would've defended Kirby to the death, just being unable to believe that he could be capable of violence, or adultry, or betrayal- he was Kirby Puckett! He's the man who won two World Series, played his whole career in Minnesota when more money beckoned elsewhere, always gave generously to charity, went a whole playing career without any off-field trouble at all and was one of baseball's genuinely great characters. He was the man who had to retire abruptly when he woke up one day in spring training unable to see out of his right eye. I attended both World Series wins and his Hall of Fame induction to boot, even met Kirby two or three times- and there's no way I ever could've imagined what was going on under the surface of that big and lovable guy. The only silver lining I can find in the recent news is that I'm glad Puckett's troubles are happening now, and not while he was still playing. Because if I had found out when I was 12 years old that my favorite athlete was a serial abuser of women, it just may have scarred me for life.

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 20, 2002 01:06 AM
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