Puckett suffers stroke; Twins shaken by news

— Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't talk much about baseball after the Twins' 5-1 Grapefruit League win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.

Like most of the Twins organization, his mind was elsewhere.

Hall of Fame center fielder Kirby Puckett suffered a stroke Sunday morning at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Puckett was taken to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital and was later airflifted to Scottsdale Osborne Hospital where he underwent surgery, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

"I think we've all put things in perspective today," Gardenhire said. "Our thoughts and our prayers and everything are turned towards Puckett out there in Arizona. We all heard about this right before lunch, and that pretty much takes away from anything you do at a ballpark. We did the best we could today, and the game was ... whatever, it was a game."

Word of Puckett's stroke reached the clubhouse about an hour before the game. Center fielder Torii Hunter, apparently shaken by the news, was scratched from the starting lineup.

"It was pretty tough. I didn't hear anything about it until right before I went out there," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "I kind of do my own thing before my starts and don't talk to too many people. It's pretty sad. It's a tough day for Twins fans and for his family."

Puckett, a 2001 Hall of Fame inductee who had his No. 34 retired by the Twins in 1997, was the Twins' No. 1 draft pick in 1982 and spent his entire 12-year career in Minnesota. Puckett was named to 10 consecutive AL All-Star teams from 1986 to 1995, and set team records for hits, doubles, total bases, runs scored and at-bats.

Puckett was also the Twins' best-known player during the team's most successful era. He led the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, but reported blurred vision from glaucoma in March 1996. He retired four months later because of his deteriorating vision, having played his last game in 1995.

At 5-foot-8 and 210 pounds during his career, Puckett wasn't a prototypical center fielder. Still, the Chicago native won six Gold Gloves scaling the walls and wowing the crowds at the Metrodome and stadiums throughout the American League.

"He was one of the few players that could go out on the road ... and get cheered," said Tom Kelly, who managed the Twins during the last 10 years of Puckett's career. "He was accepted throughout the baseball community as being a workman-like star of the game. He was a little, squatty-body type player, a blue-collar guy that played the game at a very high level. I think the fans always recognized that.

Puckett

Puckett

"Hopefully everything goes good here, and he gets a little luck. We'll keep the faith."

Gardenhire said he last saw Puckett at a golf tournament last year. Gardenhire said Puckett was in good spirits, telling Gardenhire he was on a diet, exercising and talking about marriage.

"Just like always, when he's around, everything brightens up," Gardenhire said. "No matter when you see him or where you see him at, when he comes around, everything brightens up. ... He was the best player I ever saw on the field, no doubt."

With the news surfacing so close to game time Sunday, Gardenhire chose not to have a team meeting. He said there also wasn't very much information available at the time.

"We're all waiting just like everybody else is around here to see how everything turns out," Gardenhire said. "We're hoping for the best. ... It's been a very tough day for baseball, but we got through it."

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