| The '87 Twins' home opener was
just another day at the yard for Kirby Puckett, as Jim wrote that April.
One great moment is all fans need
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kirby Puckett showed Minnesota Tuesday night a
baseball game needs only one great moment, and that moment will bring fans back
for another game.
After nine innings of largely pedestrian opening-night play by Oakland and
Minnesota, Puckett slapped awake 43,548 fans at the Metrodome.
The Minnesota center fielder giddy-yapped to right-center 408 feet from home
plate, tapped the pocket of his glove once, leapt, and pulled in a ball off the
bat of the inning's lead-off batter, Mickey Tettleton. Besides Puckett's
outstretched arm, the only thing between the ball and the top of the fence was
three feet of air.
The Twins then pulsed to life and ripped Bill
Krueger for three hits and won 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th.
It was a delicious kill for the fans, who were essentially assured the A's
had nowhere to turn after Steve Lombardozzi led off the bottom of the
10th with a single, and Puckett drained a double down the right-field line.
"We came into the dugout and the guys were going crazy," first
baseman Kent Hrbek said about Puckett's catch. "It was like we had
already won the game."
"I didn't feel that way," manager Tom Kelly said, "but
it's nice to know they did."
It was Hrbek's drive into the gap of a shallow outfield that produced the
winning run. It was his third run batted in of the night. The other two came on
Kelly and some of his players actually felt a twinge of remorse for A's
manager Tony LaRussa and his team.
First, LaRussa had lost Curt Young after seven innings. The
lefthander allowed a double by Lombardozzi, a home run by Puckett and a triple
by Gary Gaetti on three successive pitches in a three-run bottom of the
third. When he left with a blister on his pitching hand, he had retired 14
batters in a row, seven on strikeouts.
"You've got to feel bad for Curt Young," Gaetti said. "He
pitched a great game and then he has to leave with a blister. He was still
throwing the ball well."
If that weren't enough, LaRussa had the unenviable decision of pitching to
Gaetti or Hrbek in the 10th with runners on second and third and one out.
He did what the book says: He walked Gaetti to set up a force out at each
base. Kelly said considering Gaetti drove in 108 runs last season, he would
have done the same.
But that brought up Hrbek.
In the past decade, only five players have driven in more than 35 percent of
runners in scoring position. Hrbek is one of them.
"Tom came up to me before I went out there," Hrbek said, "and
just said, 'Don't try to be Superman.' I just wanted to get the ball out of the
As Hrbek's hit screamed up the gap in left-center, left fielder Jose
Canseco just turned and looked. He was walking off the field before the
ball bounced near the warning track.
Kelly couldn't say enough about Young, but said he was the only one in the
dugout who didn't get excited over Puckett's catch.
"I've seen it before," he said. Kelly, who was a little nervous
before his first opening day as the Twins' manager, was dead-panning a bit
after a trying game. Still, he insisted he didn't get off the bench when
Puckett raced for the ball to make a catch fans have also seen before.
"I was playing deep, so I knew I had a chance," Puckett said.
"I looked at the wall once, then just went up."
"What can you say when he makes a play like that?" Gaetti asked.
"It just picked us up."