SI Vault
 
Standing Small
Roy Blount Jr.
April 06, 1992
Little guys can be giants in the big leagues, and 5'8" Minnesota slugger Kirby Puckett embodies the notion in a big way
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 06, 1992

Standing Small

Little guys can be giants in the big leagues, and 5'8" Minnesota slugger Kirby Puckett embodies the notion in a big way

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

The 1992 Small-Star Team

POSITION/PLAYER/TEAM

HGT

YRS

W—L

ERA

SV

SP TOM GORDON, ROYALS

5'9"

4

38-36

3.79

2

SP BRIAN BARNES, EXPOS

5'9"

2

6-9

4.02

0

RP STEVE FREY, EXPOS

5'9"

3

11-5

3.70

10

YRS

BA

HR

RBI

SB

C LENNY WEBSTER, TWINS

5'9"

3

.300

3

9

0

1B LUIS SALAZAR, CUBS

5'9"

12

.264

89

430

116

2B CHUCK KNOBLAUCH, TWINS

5'9"

1

.281

1

50

25

3B TERRY PENDLETON, BRAVES

5'9"

8

.267

66

528

109

SS RAFAEL BELLIARD, BRAVES

5'6"

10

.226

1

99

34

OF TIM RAINES, WHITE SOX

5'8"

12

.298

101

602

683

OF KIRBY PUCKETT, TWINS

5'8"

8

.320

123

675

100

OF BIP ROBERTS, REDS

5'7"

5

.291

16

113

107

DH LUIS POLONIA, ANGELS

5'8"

5

.302

13

207

144

BENCH

IF WALLY BACKMAN, PHILLIES

5'9"

12

.277

10

234

116

IF CASEY CANDAELE, ASTROS

5'9"

5

.258

8

106

27

IF MARK LEMKE, BRAVES

5'9"

4

.225

4

56

1

IF JODY REED, RED SOX

5'9"

5

.288

14

187

16

IF CRAIG GREBEK, WHITE SOX

5'7"

2

.242

7

40

1

IF MIKE GALLEGO, YANKEES

5'8"

7

.232

23

160

21

OF LONNIE SMITH, BRAVES

5'9"

14

.291

84

471

356

OF DOUG DASCENZO, CUBS

5'8"

4

.232

3

60

41

OF CHICO WALKER, CUBS

5'9"

9

.237

8

58

45

OF MIKE FELDER, GIANTS

5'8"

7

.251

9

117

129

MGR SPARKY ANDERSON, TIGERS

5'9"

22

1,921(w)

1,524(L)

COACHES: DAVE LOPES (ORIOLES), AL BUMBRY, DON ZIMMER (RED SOX), BUCKY DENT (CARDINALS), TOMMY HARPER (EXPOS), WENDELL KIM (GIANTS), ED NAPOLEON (YANKEES)

EXECUTIVE: JOHN SCHUERHOLZ, G.M. (BRAVES)

The midautumn night is deep, the Twins' dream is glimmering, and up rises Puck. Not Shakespeare's Puck, the irritating comic sprite, but Minnesota's: Kirby Puckett, a genie self-summoned from a half-pint jar.

His teammates call him Puck for short, and 5'8" is what he is, but he is also 226 pounds of all-rounder, including no more than an ounce of fat, hair or egotism. Now, with the Minnesota Twins behind three games to two and the score tied 3-3 in the sixth game of the World Series, Puckett leads off an 11th inning that is packed as tightly with tension as he is with usable mass.

In the American League playoffs he was the MVP, and so far this night he has driven in or scored all of his team's runs and stolen at least one run from the Atlanta Braves with a leaping catch against the left centerfield fence. Now at the plate he stands chockablock.

When you're made of springy sacks of cement, as Puckett appears to be, you look a little taller because you don't slump or tilt—there's no slack in you, you just get thick wrinkles in the back of your neck (Puckett's is 18 inches around) from your torso's bulking upward against the limit of your height.

Incidentally, Rabbit Maranville, the 5'5" shortstop of the '10s and '20s and '30s who scuffled his way into the Hall of Fame, had a big wrinkle in the back of his neck, too, but according to a contemporary of Maranville's, "People would say, 'That's from drinking out of a bottle.' "

I digress. This story may chatter and hop around and spray hits and fall back on cleverness—but if that's not appropriate to its overall subject, then Peanuts Lowrey wasn't a little guy, Noodles Hahn wasn't a little guy, and Walt (No Neck) Williams, Vic Davalillo, Solly Hemus and Heinie Groh weren't little guys.

And they were. So, of course, was the perfectly named Johnny Pesky. Little guys have had some of the greatest names in baseball history (page 120), for instance Davy (Tom Thumb) Force, Charles Augustus (Bunt) Frisbee, Arlie (the Freshest Man on Earth) Latham....

I'm going to calm down now. Little guys are spark plugs who wear their emotions on their sleeves and can't sit still on the bench, but they also keep their wits about them. Of course, you can't generalize too much about little guys. For instance....

Boom! Puckett homers to left. Wins the game to force a seventh, in which the Twins spirit away the crown.

But you know that already. What you may have overlooked is what a great advance in little-manhood Kirby Puckett represents and also what a great hook last year's Series provides for an appreciation of baseball's storied little people.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9