Since he broke into the major leagues nine years ago, he has been one of the best, and most popular players in baseball.
But until last night Kirby Puckett had not particularly distinguished himself as an All-Star, even though his team has won seven of the eight games in which he has appeared. That last statistic, Puckett feels, is the most significant.
Last night, the Minnesota Twins' robust center fielder hit a home run and a double to spark the American League to a 9-3 win over the National League. As a result, Puckett was named the Most Valuable Player of baseball's 64th All-Star Game, an award he accepted with the same aplomb he displays on the field.
"What does it mean to me?" Puckett repeated a question after learning he had been named MVP. "It means that a van goes to some charity.
"Really, it is something I've never thought about," said Puckett. "I just go out and play. I've watched other players win it, I just figured if it was meant to be, it would happen."
Going into the game, there seemed to be some sentiment that maybe Puckett didn't deserve to be star gazing this year. But he, obviously, wasn't among them.
"I don't think I have to apologize for my numbers (.298, 11 home runs and 50 runs batted in)," he said. "I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody at this point in my career."
At the baseball mature age of 32, Puckett is a ranking officer among baseball's old guard. But he doesn't feel his MVP award should be considered a blow for the veteran All-Stars.
"That's the way the game is played," he said. "You always have young players coming up. Then they become older, and you have more young players."
Puckett said he couldn't explain the American League's recent domination of the All-Star Game (six wins in a row, seven of the past eight). "I really can't explain it," he said.
"We have a lot of good, young talent over here and we just come to play. The guys come here to win and they make it known."
Puckett's home run last night, a shot into the sod farm behind the center-field fence, gave the American League its first run in the second inning. And, after Roberto Alomar tied the game with a third inning homer, it was Puckett's double that capped a three-run fifth inning that broke the game open.
"I knew I hit it [the home run] good," he said, "but I didn't know if it would go out. I know [Marquis] Grissom can run the ball down, so I was just hoping it would get over his head for an extra-base hit."
It went far enough for four bases -- the first extra-base hit for Puckett in 17 All-Star at-bats. "To tell you the truth I didn't know I didn't have an extra base hit," he said. "When you play in these games you only get two or three at-bats, so you don't really have many opportunities."
EXTRA! EXTRA! PUCKETT: HR, 2B
Before his home run and double last night, All-Star Game MVP Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins did not have an extra-base hit or an RBI in 16 All-Star at-bats:
Year ... Host ...... AB ... H ... RBI TC 1986 ... Houston .... 3 ... 1 .... 0
1987 ... Oakland .... 4 ... 0 .... 0
1988 .. Cincinnati .. 1 ... 0 .... 0
1989 .. California .. 3 ... 1 .... 0
1990 ... Chicago-N .. 1 ... 1 .... 0
1991 ... Toronto .... 1 ... 0 .... 0
1992 ... San Diego .. 3 ... 1 .... 0
1993 ... Baltimore .. 3 ... 2 .... 2
Tot. ............... 19 ... 6 .... 2
The Most Valuable Players from the past 15 All-Star Games:
1979 ... Dave Parker, Pitt., NL
1980 ... Ken Griffey, Cin., NL
1981 ... Gary Carter, Montreal, NL
1982 ... Dave Concepcion, Cin., NL
1983 ... Fred Lynn, California, AL
1984 ... Gary Carter, Montreal, NL
1985 ... LaMarr Hoyt, S.D., NL
1986 ... Roger Clemens, Boston, AL
1987 ... Tim Raines, Montreal, NL
1988 ... Terry Steinbach, Oak., AL
1989 ... Bo Jackson, K.C., AL
1990 ... Julio Franco, Texas, AL
1991 ... Cal Ripken, Orioles, AL
1992 ... Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle, AL
1993 ... Kirby Puckett, Minn., AL