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The Tragic Death Of Baseball Star Kirby Puckett

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Kirby Puckett took the world by storm in the mid-1980s as an up-and-coming baseball star, first drafted to the Minnesota Twins team in 1984. In fact, he played his entire 12-year Major League Baseball career as a center fielder for the Minnesota Twins, going on to serve as the team's all-time leader in career hits, runs and total bases, before eventually being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But it wasn't all fun and games. Pucket also endured, and authored, his own share of tragedy before his untimely death.

Puckett lived a modest childhood, growing up in the south side projects of Chicago. According to SB Nation, Kirby's father wasn't around much as he worked two jobs to support the household, while Kirby's mother, Catherine, raised their nine children in a three-room apartment.

Per Sportscasting, upon graduation from Calumet High School in Chicago in the late 1970s, Puckett didn't have a single offer to play ball in college, instead settling for an assembly line at a Ford factory. During his spare time, he attended a major league tryout event, eventually gaining the attention of Bradley University coach Dewey Kalmer in 1980. After one season, though, Puckett's father died suddenly, and Puckett transferred to Triton Junior College to be closer to his family.

It was there that a lone scout from the Minnesota Twins stumbled upon the young athlete, and in May 1984, Kirby Puckett made his MLB debut for Minnesota, going 4-for-5 with a run. It was just the start. In 1987, Puckett led the team to its first World Series title for the franchise in more than 60 years - hitting .357 in seven game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Four years later, he helped the Twins win a second championship.

But on the morning of March 28, 1996, Puckett woke up without any vision in his right eye. He was diagnosed with glaucoma, and underwent several surgeries to try and correct it. But nothing worked, and Puckett was forced to retire at the age of 36.

The Minnesota Twins named Kirby the executive vice president of the team shortly after he stepped down; his number 34 jersey was retired, and in 2001, the most beloved player in Twins history was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Less than a year later, it had all come undone.

As later detailed in a Sports Illustrated exposé, in December, 2001, Puckett's wife Tonya called police to report that Puckett had threatened to kill her. Three months later in March, 2002, a woman filed a court order for protection, claiming that Tonya had threatened her life over an alleged affair with Puckett. Later that month, a third woman asked for protection from Puckett himself, claiming that he had shoved her during an argument about their 18-year affair.

That was the tip of the iceberg, and Sports Illustrated detailed numerous allegations of affairs, abuse and misconduct, which eventually culminated in his arrest. He was eventually cleared of charges, but Puckett and his wife Tonya divorced. He then got engaged to another woman, resigned from the Twins, and moved to Arizona in 2003.

It was meant to be a new start, but in truth, it was the beginning of the end. On March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at his Arizona home and was promptly rushed to emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Yet, despite all efforts by doctors, the surgery failed and his loved ones were notified the following morning that the end was near.

In his final hours, Puckett was surrounded by his two children, Kirby Jr. and Catherine; his fiancée; and former teammates, including Shane Mack and Kent Hrbek. He was disconnected from life support and passed away on March 6. According to The New York Times, the Hall of Famer's official cause of death was listed as, quote, "cerebral hemorrhage due to hypertension."

He was just 45 years old.

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