Twenty years ago on Wednesday, Kirby Puckett delivered the greatest moment of my life as a baseball fan. With the Twins back home, down three games to two in the World Series, Puckett arrived at the Metrodome, told his teammates to hop on his back and proceeded to spend the next 11 innings carrying them. He went 3-for-4, leapt at the wall to save a RBI double from Ron Gant in the third inning and hit one of the most famous walk-off homers in baseball history in the 11th inning, blasting a Charlie Leibrandt changeup to left-center field that forced Game 7.
The clip of the homer surfaces every October, in large part because of Jack Buck's iconic call of the shot as Puckett rounded the bases pumping his fist. I'd watched the clip a half-dozen times this week. I wasn't expecting to see an updated version on Thursday.
In another Game 6 - originally scheduled for the 20th anniversary of Puckett's homer but delayed a day by rain - David Freese followed Puckett's path into October lore. His walk-off homer to center field, again in the 11th inning of Game 6, capped a sloppy masterpiece of a game in which the Cardinals came back from not one, but two, deficits in what could have been their last at-bat and beat the Rangers 10-9. When Freese hit the blast in the city that made Jack Buck famous, his son Joe Buck was on the microphone for FOX. And as Freese channeled Puckett, Joe Buck paid homage to his father.
The younger Buck takes a lot of flack from baseball fans for his detached style of calling games, almost as though he's disinterested in the whole exercise; Justin Timberlake brilliantly chided him for it at the All-Star Game this year. Even if Buck's delivery doesn't always hit the right note, his intention is clear: He learned from his father not to be bigger than the moment, to give some space to the drama on the field. And last night, he did that in the most direct way possible, covering his dad's call as Freese mimicked Puckett's homer.
I've seen a few different takes on Joe Buck's call today - some thought it was a cheap knockoff, while others thought it was a nice echo of history. But put yourself in his shoes: If you were calling Game 6 of the World Series, in the city where you grew up while your dad was calling ballgames, wouldn't you do the same thing?
As someone who cherishes the memory of Puckett's homer, and Jack Buck's call, I'm good with the reprisal. There were simply too many trimmings of an historic moment not to acknowledge it, especially when your dad helped make it famous.