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03/06/2006 8:04 PM ET
Twins organization saddened by death of Kirby Puckett
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Ft. Myers, FL/Minneapolis, MN -- The entire Minnesota Twins organization is saddened by the loss of Twins great Kirby Puckett. Puckett, 45, passed away this afternoon due to complications resulting from a stroke, suffered on Sunday (March 5) morning at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. After being transported to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital on Sunday morning, Puckett was airlifted to Scottsdale Osborne Hospital, where he underwent neurosurgery. Following the surgery he was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ.

"This is a sad day for the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and baseball fans everywhere," Twins owner Carl Pohlad said. "Eloise and I loved Kirby deeply. Kirby's impact on the Twins organization, State of Minnesota and Upper Midwest is significant and goes well beyond his role in helping the Twins win two World Championships. A tremendous teammate, Kirby will always be remembered for his never-ending hustle, infectious personality, trademark smile and commitment to the community. There will never be another 'Puck'."

Born, March 14, 1961 in Chicago, Ill., Puckett became an All-American at Calumet High School in Chicago. After playing one season at Bradley University, Puckett enrolled at Triton Junior College. In the summer of 1981, he was spotted playing in the Illinois Collegiate League by Jim Rantz, the Twins' Assistant Farm Director. When the January phase of the 1982 draft arrived, the Twins made Puckett the third player selected in the first round. He was signed by scout Ellsworth Brown.

Considered by many to be the greatest Twin ever, 'Puck' was baseball's jewel for 12 incredible seasons. His story was about being a hero from day one, when he became the ninth player in history to collect four hits in his first game, May 8, 1984 at California. The dramatic entrance proved to be just the first of many heroic performances leading up to his most shining moment on October 26, 1991 during Game Six of the World Series vs. Atlanta. He went 3 for 4, made a leaping catch off the plexiglass to rob Ron Gant of an extra-base hit and became the ninth player to end a World Series game with a home run on the final pitch off Charlie Leibrandt in the 11th inning to force Game Seven.

The 10-time All-Star, 6-time Gold Glove Award winner and 5-time Silver Slugger Award winner had his career cut short when he awoke with blurred vision caused by glaucoma, on the morning of March 28, 1996. He was later forced to announce his retirement on July 12, 1996 due to irreversible damage to the retina in his right eye. He retired as the Twins' All-Time leader in hits (2,304), doubles (414), total bases (3,453), at-bats (7,244) and runs (1,071).

Besides his endless on-field accomplishments, Puckett was also one of the game's greatest community leaders and was given Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award in 1996. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2001, becoming the third-youngest living electee in baseball history (behind Sandy Koufax and Lou Gehrig). He had his number 34 formally retired by the Twins on May 25, 1997, was selected to the Twins' 40th Season Anniversary All-Time Team in 2000 and was inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame on August 12, 2000.

Puckett is survived by his daughter Catherine, son Kirby, Jr., and his fiancée Jodi Olson and her son Cameron. Funeral arrangements are pending at this time and will be communicated once they become available.

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