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Monday, March 06, 2006

Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett in critical condition after stroke

By Jim Mone, AP

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Hall of Fame outfielder Kirby Puckett was in critical condition after having surgery for a stroke, a nursing supervisor said early Monday.

The 44-year-old former Minnesota Twins star, who led the Twins to two championships before his career was cut short by glaucoma, was stricken Sunday at his Arizona home.

Puckett had surgery at Scottsdale health care Osborn, the Twins said from their spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., and was later moved to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

A nursing supervisor at St. Joseph's, who declined to give her full name, said Puckett was in critical condition. She did not provide additional details.

"The Minnesota Twins and Major League Baseball ask fans to keep Kirby and his family in their thoughts and prayers," the team said earlier in a statement.

Ron Shapiro, who was Puckett's agent, said he had been in contact with Puckett's family Sunday.

"We're all praying for his recovery," Shapiro said.

Twins center fielder Torii Hunter sat out Minnesota's exhibition game against the Red Sox after learning of Puckett's stroke.

After the game, team officials said they didn't immediately have any further information on Puckett's condition.

"The doctors said that if he has good luck, he'll be all right. You have to keep the faith," former manager Tom Kelly said.

Said manager Ron Gardenhire: "Our hearts and our prayers are all with Puck. We know it's a tough situation out there."

Puckett, who broke in with Minnesota in 1984, had a career batting average of .318 and carried the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

Glaucoma forced the Gold Glove center fielder and 10-time all-star to retire in 1996 after 12 seasons with the Twins when he went blind in one eye.

Three years ago, he was cleared of assault charges after being accused of groping a woman at a Twin Cities restaurant.

Puckett has maintained relationships with many people in the Twins' organization. The team tried unsuccessfully to get him to come to spring training as a special instructor this year, something he hasn't done since 2002.

Another former Twins great, Tony Oliva, a special instructor during spring training, said he has been worried about Puckett's weight.

"The last few times I saw him, he kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger," Oliva said. "And we worried about him. I saw him about five months ago. He always tries to invite me. He says, 'Come to Arizona, and we'll play some golf.' "

Puckett is divorced and has two children.


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