CP flashback: Ann Bauleke's "The Puckett Principle" (April 3, 1991)
This morning, when I phoned Bauleke about reposting her article, I asked her to send along her thoughts on the death of the man who defined the Minnesota Twins during the decade she covered the team. She wrote back as follows:
It gets pretty complicated for me. I have to back up a day to the news about his stroke. I saw a clip of Reusse in tears, and I wondered why that wasn't my reaction. I've been completely out of the baseball scene for more than a decade now, so that might have something to do with it. But I think it has more to do with my expectations for intimacy in an interview. I wasn't looking for a quote. I wanted something real. And Kirby always kept up a wall. He was most generous with his time. He spent hours with me.
But other than hints, little comments here and there, I always wondered who the real Kirby was. I don't think he let many people in. He was big hearted and really did carry the team with his bat and glove and he was fun--quick witted, a smart tease, not the usual sophomoric stuff that can go on. All at a price. I remember Mike Riley--I think that was his name--the ghostwriter of Kirby's autobiography. He shadowed Kirby for days at a time. In the locker room after one game, Kirby was surrounded by media. It must have been a Series game or something, there were so many reporters. And Kirby was doing his thing. Talking like a preacher. Riley was a quiet, perceptive man. He watched Kirby from the back of the crowd and shook his head. He said to me, "I hate to think of what it takes to keep up that front."
With Kirby's death, I've thought more about the marvel he was as an athlete and about the people I think knew him best. Ron Washington is one. Washington is the only baseball person I've been in touch with since 1995. He can see into the soul of players, of people, and he loved Kirby. He knew him. He knew he had demons and said he'd made some bad decisions.
People loved Puckett, but no one could save him.