A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kirby Puckett

Spring has sprung. Life is good.
The Hold Steady have always been an incredible band. Sometimes, you'll hear them referred to as the best bar band in America. Last year's Heaven is Wherever was a fantastic CD that was even better than the previous effort Stay Positive, which was on constant rotation as were their previous album Almost Killed Me. Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America were really good, too. "Hurricane J" "Barely Breathing," and "The Weekenders" stood out on one of the best discs of the year or any year in ways that would make "Killer Parties," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," and "Stuck Between Stations" proud.
This month, their lead singer Craig Finn is back with the Baseball Project, a combination of artists from a lot of 1980s alternative bands like Steve Wynn, Scott McGaughy, Peter Buck, and Linda Pittmon. Six songs into the disc (Volume 2: High and Inside) and his song "Don't Call Them Twinkies" not only stands out as the best song on the album, but it stands as one of the best tunes of the year.
Like most songs that he sings, he gets all home state proud for teams he never knew personally (the Harmon Killebrew era) to the modern team with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau via the Kirby Puckett era and that great Jack Morris game 7 (we'll be saving that for another day).
In 12 years, Puckett did a lot to earn his reputation that took him to Cooperstown. He batted .318 and led his team to World Series victories in 1987 (against St. Louis) and 1991 (against Atlanta). He was a home run hitter when he needed to be and solid at the bat at all times. He was beloved to the point where he was mourned for both contracting glaucoma (a disease he went on to fight in charitable ways) and in early death as an enlarged version of his once athletic frame. Somewhere in between, he was charged with sexual assault and it was hard for Twins Nation to see him in that way and to see him as the great baseball player that he was.
So we never remember him for the other history - even if Sports Illustrated covered it thoroughly.
And that's probably for the best. Who wants to think of our heroes as womanizing and abusive scum on the outside? It's better to see them for the fact that they can hit game and World Series saving home runs in game 6 of 1991. And he did it in extra innings to prevent the complete 180 degree turn around that was the 1991 Braves dynasty ignition.
And for the fact that Finn can sing memories that bring us back to the good ol' days of a team that was almost removed from the league altogether in the 1990s (but not before New York could extract Chuck Knoblauch and his soon to be unreliable arm from them), we have something really good.
Sitting 4 songs into a CD that features several songs about the Red Sox, the Giants, Ichiro, Pete Rose, and Reggie Jackson, you'll find "Don't Call Them Twinkies." Pick it up, download it, and enjoy it as the final days before the baseball season begins.

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