Kirby Puckett's greatest performance came when the Minnesota Twins needed it the most
NOTE: All June, we've been re-living some of the most memorable moments in sports, leading up to the announcement of our Signature Sports Memories Giveaway winner. So be sure to enter at the bottom of this post by TODAY, June 30, 2015 for your chance to score autographed sports memorabilia.
It’s been called the greatest World Series of all time.
And its Game 7 has been called one of the greatest World Series games ever.
But to get to that moment, it would first take one of the greatest individual performances in World Series history.
Through the first five games of the 1991 World Series, Kirby Puckett’s performance had been anything but great, with the beloved Minnesota Twins centerfielder managing only three hits in 18 at bats.
Worse yet, his team returned from Atlanta losers of three games in a row after taking a 2-0 series lead over the Braves.
To appreciate the greatness of Kirby Puckett's 12-year career, all you had to see was 11 innings.
- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN
Against this backdrop, Puckett's team on the brink of elimination and his batting average in the gutter, the most popular player in Twins history gathered his teammates in the clubhouse before Game 6.
“You guys should jump on my back tonight," Puckett said. "I'm going to carry us."
It was a Paul Bunyan-sized show of bravado for a man generously listed at 5-foot-8.
It was also typical Kirby.
Wasting no time in delivering on his promise, Puckett knocked in the game's first run with a first-inning triple before scoring on a base hit.
Not satisfied simply producing runs, the six-time Gold Glove winner then set his sights on stealing them from the Braves. In the top of the third, Puckett turned Ron Gant’s sure-thing RBI double into, well, this:
The game goes on.
Braves tie. Twins answer (on a Puckett RBI). Braves tie again.
The 7th inning gives way to the 8th. 9th. 10th.
Then, the bottom of the 11th.
On his way to the plate, Puckett tells Chili Davis his plan to get on with a bunt so that Davis, the Twins designated hitter, can drive him home. At least that's how legend goes.
Davis has a better idea. Forget the bunt and finish it yourself.
Digging in, the free-swinging Puckett uncharacteristically takes a few pitches from the veteran lefty Charlie Leibrandt.
And then . . .
" . . . we'll see you tomorrow night!"
The sound – whoooshCRACK! – of the bat violently meeting with a hanging change-up is followed by Jack Buck's unforgettable call, as the ball lands just beyond the spot where Puckett had made his miraculous catch only eight innings earlier.
Game 6 of the 1991 World Series would go down as the signature performance of Puckett's Hall of Fame career.
And it sure didn't make for a bad prelude to the Fall Classic's greatest Game 7.
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