And we’ll see you…Tomorrow Night!

By Chuck Kajer

Those six words, uttered by Jack Buck, are etched in the minds of longtime Minnesota Twins fans. They were spoken after the ball left the bat of Kirby Puckett in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

And those six words have been heard repeatedly since Monday evening, following the death of the Minnesota Twins Hall-of-Fame outfielder at the age of 45.

I spent the better part of my evenings in the spring and summer of 1984 driving around Rochester, MN, delivering Domino's Pizza in my Chevy Chevette. As a sports fan, I’d usually have my radio tuned to Minnesota Twins games. The Twins started the season with Jim Eisenreich in center field, but a nervous disorder sidelined him after only a few games. They tried several others in that position, and after deciding they had seen enough of Darrel Brown they decided to call up a kid from Chicago who had spent just two years in their minor league system. A kid with the catchy name of Kirby Puckett.

Puckett went 4-for-5 in his major league debut and it would be a long time before the team would have to worry about finding another center fielder.

A little more than a month after Puckett made his debut, Calvin Griffith sold the team to Carl Pohlad. He left Pohlad a young, energetic team that was just starting to come into its own.

The addition of Puckett provided a spark, and that spark lit a fuse under the team. By late June, the Twins were in first place. The first time I saw Kirby Puckett in person was later that month, when the AL West-leading Twins were hosting the AL-East leading Tigers on a Saturday night before a full house in the Metrodome. It was the first time I’d ever seen a full house for a baseball game in that building. The noise was deafening and it was an exciting game.

The Twins would go on to an infamous collapse, falling out of first place in the last weekend of the season. But the core of that team—Puckett, Hrbek, Laudner, Brunansky and Gaetti—would bring the club its first World Series championship three years later. Hrbek and Puckett were still there four years later, when Kirby Puckett put the team on his shoulders and sent the World Series to a Game 7.

It’s been 15 years since the Twins won the series. Glaucoma forced Puckett into a premature retirement in 1996, and his sterling reputation in the Twin Cities community was tarnished with some personal and legal problems. But to thousands of Twins fan, myself included, we will always remember that magical night in October, 1991, and the 12 years he spent thrilling the fans.

A quote from Puckett after he was forced to retire from baseball seems even more profound now, after his death at a relatively young age.

Don't take anything for granted

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