I love looking back on the careers of players who are close to my age.  I like to remember what I was doing during their prime playing years.  I recall particular games which I watched or listened to. This article is the second in my recurring series on pairs of players whose careers produced similar numbers.

Kirby Puckett batting during the 1993 season. (Image from Wikipedia)

Kirby Puckett played in 1783 games over 12 seasons (1984-1995); that’s an average of 152 games per season (excluding the players’ strike year) reflecting the fact that Kirby never went on the injured list with a baseball injury.  In 1994 he was the MLB RBI leader with 112, in just 108 games!  He attained a batting average above .300 in eight of his last ten seasons. 

Glaucoma began affecting his right eye toward the end of spring training in 1996 and led to his sudden retirement at age 35.  Kirby enjoyed the highest level of personal and team success. As a ten-time All Star and leader of a Twins team that twice won the World Series, he was a first-ballot hall of famer in 2001.  Sadly. Kirby was the youngest player so honored to pass away when he died in 2006. Since 2010, Target Field’s “Gate 34” has stood in his memory.

Kirby’s life reminds us that athletes are not immune to bodily illness.  Not all great players spend decades in retirement living a carefree life.  The shock of Kirby’s early death also reminds us that no one is guaranteed long life on Earth.  So let us give thanks for the many good seasons that our favorite players had before they left the field.  Show gratitude for your own life by making the most of every opportunity to live out your calling!

Mattingly during a 1988 game at Yankee Stadium. (Image from Wikipedia)

Don Mattingly played in 1785 games in 14 seasons (1982-1995); He played in at least 130 games in each season from 1984-89, and from 1991-93.  In 1987, Mattingly injured his back.  This problem returned in 1990, causing him to miss sixty games.   After extensive treatment in the 1990-91 offseason, he stayed in the lineup for several more seasons, yet his hitting did not return to the level of the 1980s.  He batted over .300 in six consecutive seasons (1984-89) but attained the .300 level only once more in his final six seasons. 

In what many consider to be a sad irony, Mattingly never played on baseball’s biggest stage.  That’s because after the Yankees made the World Series in 1981, (the year prior to Mattingly’s rookie year), they did not appear again until 1996, the first season he was retired.  Mattingly was a successful hitting coach with the Yankees and Dodgers in the 2000s.    Though he managed the Dodgers to the first three (2013-15) of their ongoing string of playoff appearances before moving on to manage the Marlins, Mattingly is still seeking his first World Series appearance. 

One lesson that we can learn from “Donnie Baseball” is to guard against thinking we see the whole picture in what someone is doing now.  Older fans may think of Mattingly primarily as a player.   Newer fans will only remember Mattingly as a manager.  To appreciate a person in the fullness of their talents, be in the habit of viewing as much of their life as possible, just as others should appreciate all of your story!