I had a remarkable vantage point to enjoy Kirby’s career with the Twins. I shared a pair of season tickets that were in the fourth row, directly behind home plate. It was from there that I watched Game 1 of the 87 Series and Games 6 and 7 of the ’91 Series. I had great seats for some magical baseball moments.
In Game 6 of ’91, it looked like it would be a real pitcher’s duel, I can’t remember which one of Atlanta’s mighty staff was pitching, but you just knew that a lead was going to be very tough to overcome. I remember, when the ball was hit, watching it rocket into the outfield thinking, “That’s going into the gap for at least a double, it’s over now.” Then I saw the fireplug shaped form coming into my vision from the right and thinking, “Wow, Kirby’s got a bead on that one, but he can’t possibly get to it.” I measured the flight of the ball and the sprint of the fielder and thought, “Wait, he might just get to it! Wow, I think he will get to it! He’s there, but no one can jump….Oh my God, he got it!” That was the most amazing baseball play I ever saw. And it was so typically Kirby, the huge play made at a huge moment. Oh, and he homered on the first pitch of extra innings to win the game.
He had an absolute cannon for an arm. There was a huge, slow power hitting first baseman at bat, I can’t remember which one. He cranked the ball into the gap between right and center and it was going to the wall, a double for sure. Kirby chased the ball to the wall, picked it up with his bare hand and in one motion turned and threw, without looking, a strike to the second baseman who tagged the plodding slugger out.
Bases were loaded and Kirby was at bat, the baseball nerd in front of me had a little device that held baseball’s massive statistical database. He informed us that Kirby had never hit a grand slam before. I was surprised because this was fairly late in his career. That’s when we heard that explosive crack of the bat and I turned to my buddy and said, “He has now.”
I also saw him hit for the cycle.
Late in the season in 1995 my wife and I played hookie from work to go to an afternoon game. We saw his last at bat. The sound of the ball hitting him in the head was terrifying and I actually thought he must be dead as he lay there on the ground. He never came back. They say the beaning had nothing to do with the glaucoma that ended his career the next spring, but you have to wonder.
Thanks for the memories!