Still, as a rookie big leaguer in 1984, he weighed only 175. "You look pretty strong," Reggie Jackson said at their first meeting. "You hit the long ball?"
"No, I don't, Mr. Jackson. I'm just a base-hit hitter."
Puckett had no home runs that year and only four the next. But he kept on expanding his thews and worked on pulling the ball, and in his third season he displayed 31-homer power.
He has always had speed, but scouts questioned his arm—conventional wisdom says chunky players are too tight in the shoulder to be great throwers. So he pushed himself to stretch the shoulder out, and now he has a rifle.
Drive can get on people's nerves. But Puckett has channeled his tenacity into an almost uncanny geniality. "You can be having a bad day," says Knoblauch, "and he smiles and laughs and tries to get you going, even if he's having a bad day."
The parsimonious Twins cheerfully made Puckett the game's highest-paid player at $3 million 2½ years ago. Even now that 6'2" second baseman Ryne Sandberg is making more than twice as much, Puckett is still saying things like, "All I ever wanted to do since I was five years old is play this game."
Shakespeare's Puck was a source of merriment but also a lightweight and a pain. Twins general manager Andy Mac-Phail says of his Puck, "He's just the type of guy who makes you smile."
Puck played Cupid. Puckett, like many another little man before him, says it all comes down to heart.
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