Kirby Puckett may have been the most popular man in baseball in the late eighties and early nineties. He proved that one doesn't have to be tall and lithe to be an athlete. He was short, roly-poly, and funny looking, but he played the game brilliantly. He was always enthusiastic and jovial, and seemed to take great joy in playing. That made it all the sadder when glaucoma (the result of a pitch that hit him in the head) destroyed the sight in his right eye, forcing him to retire at age 35. Five years later, he was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try.
Apparently he wasn't able to handle the end of his baseball life as well as he'd played the game. His reputation became tarnished in later years as stories of infidelity, alleged sexual assault, and bizarre hehavior began coming out. People who'd admired his skill and joie de vivre, as I did, stopped paying attention.
Puckett had a massive stroke over the weekend, and died today. He was only 45. It's such a shame. He was a joy to watch.
eta: There's a great post by Batgirl about Kirby here.