Best Baseball Hall-of-Famer Who Was Raised in a South-Side Housing Project

Kirby Puckett

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There may have not been a more defining moment in my career as a baseball fan than watching Kirby Puckett jog around the bases and pump his fist after hitting an 11th-inning walk-off home run in game six of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. A stocky five foot eight, Puckett was more tank than fighter jet. I loved him because he was such an underdog—born in 1960, he grew up in the notorious Robert Taylor Homes housing project just east and south of Sox park. Puckett played third at Calumet High School and attended Bradley University in Peoria. Drafted by the Twins in 1982—the third pick in the nation—he spent his entire 12-year career with the team. He won the 1989 AL batting title and six Gold Gloves, made ten all-star appearances, and hit .318 for his career. Glaucoma blinded him in one eye in 1996 and forced his retirement. In 2001, the first year he was eligible, he made the Hall of Fame. He ballooned to over 300 pounds in retirement and died of a massive stroke in 2006. I prefer to remember him by flipping through my book of Kirby Puckett-only baseball cards.