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Flashback Friday: Farewell to Kirby Puckett brings huge crowd to the Metrodome

Updated: September 06, 2019 12:31 PM

On Sept. 7, 1996, a season-high crowd of 51,011 graced the blue Metrodome seats for a celebration of the career of Minnesota Twins legend Kirby Puckett.

Puckett had announced his early retirement on July 12 of that year because glaucoma in his right eye was causing blindness.

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The man known to many as just "Kirby" was an immediate fan favorite for the Twins due to his smile and overwhelming enthusiasm for the game. As his career continued, his legend grew. From his 10 consecutive all-star seasons to his game-winning blast in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Puckett cemented himself as not only a Twins legend, but a legend to all of baseball.

The crowd that greeted Puckett as he stepped out of the tunnel was the largest attendance in three seasons at a Twins game, according to an Associated Press story. Puckett just seemed to have that effect on people.

He took to the podium in the jersey he wore for so many of his achievements, No. 34, which would be retired during the ceremony, and called back to another memorable retirement speech. A roaring crowd listened as he said, "I think I thought I heard him say he was the luckiest man in the world, I'm here to tell Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, that tonight Kirby Puckett is the luckiest man in the world."

After his speech, Puckett threw out the first pitch to another Twins legend, Rod Carew

The speech was enough to rally the '96 Twins to a victory that day over the California Angels, despite an otherwise middling season.

In his retirement, Puckett's reputation took a hit due to allegations of, and an arrest for, domestic violence charges. But, he was found not guilty on all charges related to the cases.

Puckett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2001, receiving 82% of the vote. Just five years later, he suffered a stroke that ended his life on March 6, 2006, just eight days before his 46th birthday.

Despite the allegations and his untimely death, the love for Puckett in Minnesota has largely lived on.

"Touch em' all Kirby Puckett."

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Credits

Charlie Wiese

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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