With the celebration of the Minnesota Twins’ 1987 World Championship this weekend, it’s high time to profile the players!
This weekend, the Minnesota Twins will be honoring the 1987 World Series championship team. As we get ready for that weekend, we at Puckett’s Pond want to highlight some of the best players and moments from that season.
No player on the Minnesota Twins in the 1980s and 1990s was more nationally popular or visible than a roly-poly center fielder from Chicago…
The Minnesota Twins drafted Kirby Puckett with the 3rd overall selection in the 1982 draft from Triton College in River Grove, Illinois. Triton has had four alumni reach the major leagues, and 3 played with the Twins. None came close to the career that Puckett had, however.
Puckett flew through the minor leagues, putting up ridiculous stats with Elizabethton in his draft season, hitting .382/.438/.481 with 43 stolen bases in just 65 games. In 1983, he spent the full season in the Cal League with Visalia, hitting .314/.366/.442 with 29 doubles, 7 triples, 9 home runs, and 48 stolen bases.
After just 21 games in AAA, Puckett made the jump to the big leagues in 1984, immediately hitting for a good average, hitting .296 in 128 games. In 1986, in just his 2nd full season in the major leagues, Puckett hit his career high in home runs, as he hit .328/.366/.537 with 37 doubles, 6 triples, 31 home runs, and 20 stolen bases. That was the season of his first All-Star selection, the first of 10 straight All-Star selections for the incredibly popular Puckett.
Puckett led the league in hits for the first time in his career in 1987, something he’d do four times in all. Overall on the season, he posted a .332/.367/.534 slash line with 32 doubles, 5 triples, 28 home runs, and 12 stolen bases.
Puckett was remarkably consistent in 1987. In the first half, he had 16 doubles, 14 home runs, and a .900 OPS. In the second half, he had 16 doubles, 14 home runs, and a .901 OPS. However, one of the splits on the season that emerges describes the exact essence of Puckett’s role as a spark plug and leader with the team. In wins, Puckett had an OPS .357 higher than in losses. He hit 23 of his 28 home runs and all 5 of his triples in Twins victories as well, showing when Puckett went well, the Twins went well in 1987.
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Kirby is known for his World Series heroics in both 1987 and 1991, but interestingly, his biggest performances in both series was in the 6th game. In the 1987 World Series, Puckett hit .357/.419/.464 with a double, triple, and a stolen base in the seven games. However, in game 6, he keyed the Twins offense as they were down 3 games to 2, going 4-4 with a walk, scoring 4 runs and stealing a base to key the Twins offense as they blew out the Cardinals and forced a game 7.
Puckett never left the Twins, playing with the team until an unfortunate injury in 1995 when he was hit in the jaw by a pitch. He attempted to come back in 1996 spring training, but glaucoma had taken his vision in his right eye, ending his career.
Puckett won 6 Gold Gloves in his career, 6 Silver Slugger awards, the 1989 batting title, the 1993 All-Star MVP, the 1991 AL ALCS MVP, the 1993 Branch Rickey Award, and the 1996 Roberto Clemente Award.
Puckett finished with a career total of 2,304 hits in just 12 seasons. He finished his career with a slash line of .318/.360/.477 for his career. He was still at the top of his game when he was injured and unable to continue playing, likely having 3,000 hits in hand over his career without the injury. Hall of Fame voters elected Puckett in 2001.
A look around Target Field will show all the love still heaped upon Kirby, even though he is no longer with us, having passed away in 2006. His statue stands outside the gate bearing his number. His number is retired, and his name is on streets near the stadium.
Excited for the anniversary weekend?! Who should we profile next? Let us know in the comments!