2006 | PHOENIX, ARIZONA • Kirby Puckett always tried to look on the bright side, which would have helped his family, friends and fans when he died on this date in 2006. The former Minnesota Twins outfielder and member of the Hall of Fame suffered a massive brain hemorrhage the previous day, and died after surgery to relieve the pressure.
Puckett probably would have said something like, “It was a short life (45 years), but a fulfilling one.” This is what Puckett (5′ 8″ 210 lbs) actually did say when he was forced to retire in 1996 after waking up one morning blind in one eye, “I was told I would never make it because I’m too short. Well, I’m still too short, but I’ve got 10 All-Star Games, two World Series championships, and I’m a very happy and contented guy.
It doesn’t matter what your height is, it’s what’s in your heart.”
Kirby Puckett was born Chicago and raised in the Robert Taylor Homes, at the time, the largest public housing project in the country and one of the most notorious; infested with drugs, gangs and crime. But Kirby make it out, attending Bradley University for a short time where he was an all-conference outfielder as a freshman. He transferred to Triton Junior College outside Chicago and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1982 draft, after his hometown Cubs passed him up. He finished his 12-year career with a lifetime .318 average, and despite a shortened career finished with over 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI’s.
Puckett’s pristine, community-conscious image took hit after he was forced to retire. His former wife accused him of threatening her, and he was accused (and acquitted) of groping a woman in a Twin Cities restaurant. As time went on he gained a tremendous amount of weight, ballooning to well over 300 lbs, which likely lead to his hypertension and contributed to his death.
Kirby Puckett – Baseball-Almanac
1982 Amateur Draft – mlb.com
2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Spring training 2017 is in full swing. At one time it was mostly a Florida experience. It began when the Chicago Cubs moved their training from New Orleans to Tampa in 1913.
The St. Louis Browns moved to St. Petersburg in 1914. According to the Tampa Bay Rays, more spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.
Jump ahead to 2017…
Half the major league teams now train in Arizona, mostly in the Phoenix area. Phoenix suburbs such as Glendale and Peoria have gone all-out to lure teams to “The Valley of the Sun.”
After training in Florida for decades, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers now call an elaborate state-of-the-art complex called Camelback Ranch home in the spring. It has fully equipped training, exercise, weight-room facilities for each team, in addition to 16 diamonds.
The Official Site of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida
Tampa Bay Rays
2017 | ARIZONA & FLORIDA – Cactus and Grapefruit league games broke out all over Arizona and Florida this weekend. How predictable are spring won-loss records to the regular season?
As you can see below, some teams, like the Red Sox, Orioles and Mets, that were bottom-feeders in the Spring made the postseason.
The Cubs sucked in spring training, but won it all eight months later.
On the other hand, nobody had a better spring record than the Washington Nationals last year. The Nationals made the playoffs but lost the divisional series to the Dodgers.
The Dodgers didn’t have a great spring, but made it all the way to the League Championship Series before losing to the eventual World Series Champion, Cubs.
2016 PLAYOFF TEAMS (Spring Training record)
AL East – Boston (14-18)
AL Central – Cleveland (18-12)
AL West – Texas (17-15)
AL Wildcard – Toronto (17-8)
AL Wildcard – Baltimore (12-15)
NL East – Washington (19-4)
NL Central – Chicago (11-19)
NL West – Los Angeles (13-17)
NL Wildcard – San Francisco (13-20)
NL Wildcard – New York (8-17)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • Chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley dropped a bombshell on the baseball world on this date in 1961 – he announced that the Cubs would not have a manager for the upcoming season.
The franchise had been struggling. The Cubs were 60-94 in 1960, the eighth year in a row the team lost more games than it won. Wrigley wanted a revolving door – a revolving door of coaches. Wrigley considered the manager a “dictator,” and instead would rotate eight coaches through the major and minor leagues. Each would take turns running the major league club. Length of stay would depend on how well the “coach” was doing. This brain trust became known as the College of Coaches.
Wrigley wanted help from another unlikely source, “Everyone has always said baseball is a game of percentages, but I have yet to find anyone in baseball who can figure the percentages.” He wanted an IBM machine in the dugout so whoever was running the team could access statistical information about opposing, as well as Cub players. This information would in turn help dictate game strategy. Mind you, this is decades before the personal computer.
The Ivy League approach didn’t work. The Cubs finished the 1961 season 64-90, just four games better than the year before. The situation got worse in 1962 when the Cubs lost 103 games on a 154 game schedule, the worst season the Cubs ever had. And that was the end of the College of Coaches.
Chicago Daily Tribune, January 13, 1961, by E. Prell, P. C1
Philip K. Wrigley