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The other Kirby

Puckett has history of abuse, say former wife, mistress

Posted: Tuesday March 11, 2003 3:25 PM

 
From Sports Illustrated

Chuck Solomon
The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett
By Frank Deford
Issue Date: March 17, 2003
[Puckett] woke up one bright spring morning in 1996 and thought he'd slept funny on one eye, only it was glaucoma, and so never again could the Puck stand in against horsehides flung 90 to 95 mph. Just like that, no warning, he had to hang it up. Then he wasn't a ballplayer anymore, let alone a whale of one. Then he was just back to being fat little Kirby Puckett. Of course, this meant being able to spend more time with his mistress of many years, who nobody seems to have known existed, because Kirby was, of course, an ideal family man -- even though, truth be told, he wasn't even an ideal scoundrel, because he also had cheated on his mistress of many years with a passel of other sad and lonely women. And you thought the fans were duped. She was so shocked at his perfidy, the mistress of many years, that she began to seek comfort in commiseration with the wife.

Anyway, the mistress of many years says that when Puckett couldn't play baseball anymore, "he started to become full of himself and very abusive." He began to perform lewd acts in public, such as going to a fancy shopping center, parking there, then opening his car door and stepping out and peeing in plain view of other people (Twins fans presumably included). ...

Laura Nygren, the other woman, says that Puckett often spoke resentfully about having to visit children in order to bulwark his image. "He always said how much he hated going to the hospitals," Nygren says. "He became more [vocal] about how much he hated it after he retired, but he always said he hated it."

Excepted from "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett," by Frank Deford in the March 17, 2003 issue of Sports Illustrated.

ATLANTA (SI.com) -- Baseball fans across the country were shocked last year when Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, one of the game’s most beloved figures, was charged with sexually assaulting a woman at a suburban Minneapolis restaurant.

But that incident was merely the latest in a pattern of alleged sexual indiscretions and violent acts by the former Minnesota Twins icon, according to the cover story by Frank Deford, with special reporting by George Dohrmann, in this week’s Sports Illustrated.

Puckett has pleaded innocent in the restaurant incident, and is scheduled to go on trial March 24 for false imprisonment and criminal sexual assault.

Laura Nygren, whom SI describes as Puckett's "mistress of many years," told the magazine that Puckett resumed an affair with her just seven weeks after he was married in 1986 -- then cheated on Nygren with numerous other women.

After the onset of glaucoma in his right eye forced him to retire in 1996, Puckett began committing lewd acts in public, such as urinating in mall parking lots, Nygren told SI. Her relationship with the ex-ballplayer ended last March after he allegedly threatened her and she obtained a temporary order of protection.

Shortly before Puckett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in January 2001, a female employee of the Twins threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the team because of Puckett’s and other men’s behavior. The Twins allegedly made a financial settlement with her, according to SI. The Twins declined to comment to the magazine about this allegation.

Puckett’s ex-wife, Tonya, divorced him in December, barely a year after she told police that he threatened to kill her during a telephone conversation. Over the years, she told SI, Puckett had also tried to strangle her with an electrical cord, locked her in the basement and used a power saw to cut through a door after she had locked herself in a room. Once, she said, he even put a cocked gun to her head while she was holding their young daughter.

Puckett’s upcoming trial stems from charges that he pulled a woman into the men’s room of a restaurant in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Sept. 5, 2002, and fondled her. The woman told police that Puckett released her only when her girlfriend opened the door to the men’s room and screamed.

Puckett, who retired with a .318 career average, 207 home runs, 1,085 RBIs and 134 stolen bases in 12 seasons, helped Minnesota win the World Series in 1987 and 1991. But the 5-foot-8, 230-pound center fielder was revered in the Twin Cities -- and throughout baseball -- as much for his “good guy” nature as for his play.

He and his ex-wife were involved in numerous community projects and during his career he won the Branch Rickey and the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year awards for community service. He’s also a member of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

But that image also was a sham, according to Nygren. One day after he had retired, she told SI, they were together when Puckett said he had to leave to visit a sick child who was waiting to meet him.

“That’s great, you get to make that kid’s day,” Nygren told him. “That must make you feel good.” But she said Puckett just snapped back at her.

“I don’t give a s---,” he said. “It’s just another kid who’s sick.”

Puckett declined to be interviewed for the SI story.

 
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